By Channaly Philipp
If you sleep on a conventional mattress like most people do, you’re spending a third of your life lying on toxic chemicals. If this little-known fact has you tossing and turning, read on.
Since the 1960s, mattresses have been made of polyurethane foam, a material derived from petroleum that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The popular memory foam mattresses are made from this material.
But VOCs are only part of the cocktail of chemicals in foam mattresses. Required to be flame-resistant, foam mattresses are imbued with flame-retardant chemicals that can cause cancer and nervous-system disorders.
Walt Bader, a sufferer of a condition called multiple chemical sensitivity and the author of “The Toxic Bedroom,” had several mattresses analyzed by a lab in Atlanta in 2005. One memory foam model was found to emit 61 chemicals.
The next year, he published the first definitive list of chemicals outgassing from memory foam mattresses.
“Nine of these chemicals are recognized as carcinogens by just about every significant health organization in the world,” Bader said on his website. “And do you know what has happened? Nothing.”
The outgassing is not only nefarious to people who suffer from respiratory issues, but some of the chemicals are also known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
As more people become educated about what they’re sleeping on, they are turning to organic mattresses and bedding in greater numbers.
Christine Chamberlin, co-founder of The Clean Bedroom, a retailer of organic mattresses and bedding, said when she first got into the business 10 years ago, her customers were those highly sensitive to chemicals seeking out an organic mattress.
Now, organic mattresses are being sought out by just about anyone concerned with living a healthy lifestyle.
“When we found out what was in our mattress, my husband said, ‘Every mother in the world should know what they are putting their child on at night.’ That was 2004, and The Clean Bedroom was born,” Chamberlin said on the company website. “While we sleep, our immune system recovers and prepares for the day ahead. If your mattress is filled with airborne allergens and chemical toxins, your immune system will battle these rather than repair itself.”
Organic mattresses, made of natural materials such as wool, cotton, and rubber latex, present an alternative to conventional mattresses and are becoming increasingly popular.
Wool is a natural fire retardant, and is excellent for regulating temperature and air circulation—a boon for anyone suffering from night sweats. The natural materials are also resistant to dust mites, which are a trigger for asthma and allergies.
The testimonials Clean Bedroom has received include people suffering from fibromyalgia, which affects pressure points, saying their suffering is relieved; to people waking up without a runny nose for the first time in years; to those grateful for the comfort, who no longer wake up in the middle of of the night and say they’ve never slept better.
The company carries highly-regarded names such as Naturepedic and Savvy Rest.
The fact that organic mattresses now sell at price points comparable to conventional mattresses makes them more within reach. Prices start at $749, while an all-wool Naturepedic mattress starts at $1,995.
The natural materials are organic, and the mattresses are made to order, mostly in the U.S., and also in Canada.
An added benefit of getting a mattress custom made is that for latex mattresses, the two sides of a larger mattress can be customized for different needs—one sleeping partner might prefer a firmer mattress, while the other might prefer something less firm.
“You can be a princess and the pea and your husband can sleep on a cement floor, and you’ll be able to co-exist on the same bed,” Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin, who has traveled to all the supplying factories to make sure they’re clean, said most of her manufacturers don’t keep materials around longer than two months.
There are even organic vegan mattresses for those who don’t want wool.
For those not ready to make the leap to a new organic mattress, they can start with an organic pillow or mattress pad or topper.
Chamberlin worked with a woman who suffered from fibromyalgia, who purchased an alpaca wool topper. “It’s not very thick, only three-quarters of an inch. She put it on her mattress. Wool has a healing quality and it stimulates blood flow. She slept on it and sent me an email saying she had never felt comfort in sleeping until she had this pad.”
Likewise, people who suffer from night sweats have benefitted greatly from wool toppers.
Choosing an Organic Mattress
When shopping for a new organic mattress, Chamberlin recommends asking if the mattress was made with certified organic materials and to ask for the certification, to avoid being duped by greenwashing. It should use cotton grown without pesticides and wool from sheep raised on organic farms.
Green Guard is the most valuable certification, while others include Global Organic Textiles (GOTS) for organic wool and cotton; SKAL for organic cotton; and Global Organic Latex Certification (GOLS) certifying organic rubber sap. A few manufacturers also have their factories certified.
Ask what percentage of natural rubber is in the “latex” mattress. To be considered natural it should be 95–97 percent.
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Tags: Body & Mind, China, environmental issues, Food, health, Society
The three largest fruit juice makers in China have been found to purchase vast quantities of rotting and putrid fruits for use in their beverages, according to investigations published in the Chinese press recently.
A fruit seller speaking from his tricycle in Xuzhou of Jiangsu Province was frank with a reporter who stopped by to ask him what he had planned to do with the rotten fruits he had.
“Those fruit can’t be sold to people for eating,” the fruit seller, giving his surname as Wang. “They are for the juice companies.” He pointed to Andre Juice, a large company, across the street. “I can probably get enough fruit by tomorrow and take them to the company,” he remarked to the reporter from the 21st Century Business Herald, a large newspaper in China.
“The closer to the fruit seller’s tricycle, the worse the fruit smelled,” the reporter wrote, describing the scene. “Liquid drips down from the tricycle. Flies are everywhere.”
Along with Andre Juice in Jiangsu, other companies to be found using corrupted fruit sources included China Huiyuan Juice and China Haisheng Juice, in Anhui Province and elsewhere. The companies are typically located near China’s large fruit production areas.
Local farmers have developed a hierarchy for the fruit they sell: the good fruit goes to the public, lower quality fruit goes to canned fruit manufacturers, and the worst of it, including rotting fruit, goes to juice companies.
Mr. Chen, the owner of a fruit market in Dangshan County, in the central Anhui Province, told the reporter that he delivers an average of 20 to 30 tons of “blind fruit” to juice company plants nearby every day. Sometimes he moves more than 60 tons. “Blind fruit” refers to rotten or damaged fruit.
Chen says he spends 400 yuan ($65.35) to purchase a ton of “blind fruit” from fruit farmers, and offloads it to juice companies for 450 yuan ($73.52).
The juice companies Huiyuan and Andre told the Chinese media that their fruit had no problems, but after the reports emerged the Anhui Provincial Food and Drug Administration suspended production, pending rectification of the problems, according to the state mouthpiece Xinhua.
The companies’ stocks, listed in Hong Kong, tumbled up to 5 percent on Sept. 23, the day after the reports emerged.
Huiyuan Juice had a domestic market share of nearly 50 percent in 2012. According to Haisheng Juice’s website, 95 percent of its products are for export, including to North America. Its concentrated apple juice exports are 20 percent of the global amount traded.
Tags: Body & Mind, environmental issues, Food, sustainable development
By Paul Darin
Scientific debates continue to rage over these food additives. Many claim they pose no threat while others cite evidence to the contrary. Here’s a list of America’s five most controversial food additives.
1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a flavor enhancing food additive found in snack foods, Chinese takeout, ramen noodles, and a variety of other foods. It’s been controversial since the 1960s when people complained about headaches, chest pain, sweating, and a variety of other symptoms from eating it. According to Yale Scientific Magazine, no negative effects have been found. But, it does appear that a minority of the population does experience some of these symptoms from ingesting MSG. Ancient Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, and Chinese used MSG.
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Made from genetically modified corn, this sugar substitute is found in nearly every soft drink and many candies in America. The artificially produced sugar does not exist in nature and is 20 to 70 percent cheaper than sugar. Like sugar, it doubles as a food preservative. However HFCS, according to the Global Healing Center, has a high risk of leading to hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, liver damage, and mercury exposure. The center also cited a Princeton University study that found that mice that ate HFCS gained fat 300 percent faster than those who ate fruit sugar.
3. Trans Fats
A polyunsaturated fat that does occur in nature is artificially produced on the commercial scale for snack foods like baked goods and chips. Controversy abounded during the fat-free craze during the 1980s and 1990s when this fat was used in reduced-fat foods.
In the body, trans fat acts much the same way as saturated fat does and can be even worse than saturated fats including lowering good cholesterol and raising bad cholesterol. More controversy arose when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed the labeling of zero trans fats on food packaging when the product contained less than half a gram per serving, according to NBC.
To avoid trans fats, avoid products that list partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredients.
4. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
According to Fox News, GMO crops have been on the market since 1995 and include corn, soy, cotton, and canola, which are called the “big four.”
Additionally, Fox cited research about GMO consumption done on different animals, which found intestine, lung, kidney, and liver problems, and inflammation of the colon. Anti-GMO lobbyists have consistently fought a losing battle in the United States to get GMOs labeled on food packaging. The EU requires labeling for GMOs.
Found in most diet sodas and chewing gum, this sugar substitute and artificial sweetener inspired backlash as a toxic chemical hastily approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Aspartame was an accidental discovery when in 1966 a scientist licked his fingers after touching the chemical by accident after it spilled out of a flask, according to the FDA.
The controversy is about its approval by the FDA despite its toxic effects. According to a letter written to the FDA by the Aspartame Toxicity Information Center, the chemical has several negative side effects:
In the 1970s tests on infant primates consuming aspartame in milk resulted in five out of seven experiencing grand mal seizures.
Another test concluded that the chemical caused brain damage in lab mice. In the FDA’s defense, the letter said some of these effects were purposefully kept from the FDA until after its approval.
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Not Even Good Enough for Dog Food: Imported Food From China Loaded With Chemicals, Dyes, Pesticides and Fake Ingredients17 September, 2013 at 07:28 | Posted in Body & Mind, China, Environmental issues, Food, Society, sustainable development | Leave a comment
Tags: animals, Body & Mind, CCP, China, environmental issues, Food, health, Society, sustainable development
By Mike Adams
NaturalNews – Do you really know what’s in all the food you’re eating that’s imported from China? If you don’t, you’re actually in good company: The FDA only inspects 1% – 2% of all the food imported from China, so they don’t know either. Even when they inspect a shipment, they rarely test it for heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs or other toxic contaminants.
Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, added emphasis to this point as he testified this week in The House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, saying, “We don’t trust, for good reason, the Chinese to supply ingredients for our dog and cat food. Why should we trust Chinese exporters for the food that we are feeding our children and families?”
It’s a good question. Especially when, as Kastel adds, Chinese food is being routinely found to contain “unapproved chemicals, dyes, pesticides and outright fraud (fake food).”
Heavily contaminated food from China
As Natural News has already reported, food from China is frequently found to contain alarming levels of heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury) and other contaminants. Politically, China is a communist dictatorship where freedom of speech is completely outlawed. Environmental regulations are virtually never enforced. The culture is one of total deception where lying, cheating, stealing or committing fraud to get ahead is considered completely acceptable — because that’s how government is operated there. The moral decay of China is directly reflected in the alarming dishonesty of the food supply. (Yes, a country’s food exports will reflect its cultural and political philosophies. Freedom produces healthy food. Oppression and communism produces deceptive, deadly food.)
And yet, even with all this being widely known, Chinese farms are rarely inspected by organic certifiers. “U.S. certifiers are unable to independently inspect farms and assure compliance to the USDA organic food and agriculture standards that are required for export to the U.S.” explained Kastel in testimony. “These imports should not be allowed to reach our shore until and unless we have a system in place to assure consumers they are getting what they pay for. Just like U.S. grown organic commodities, the safety of these products must be rigorously overseen by independent inspectors.”
Counterfeit ingredients are the new norm in China
Also testifying at the hearing was Patty Lovera, the Assistant Director of Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch. The news on food fraud out of China “is a steady stream of controversies ranging from adulteration with counterfeit ingredients like melamine in dairy products, to widespread outbreaks of animal diseases like avian flu, and high levels of pesticide residues,” Lovera testified. “Just last week, news reports described a Chinese government campaign to break up a fake meat operation, leading to arrests of more than 900 people accused of passing off more than $1 million of rat meat as mutton.”
See Natural News coverage of the fake rat meat scandal here.
You are eating far more food from China than you think
Why does any of this matter? Because you’re eating far more food from China than you probably think.
Not only do retailers like Whole Foods sell “certified organic” food grown in China, the vast majority of superfood powders sold in North America use raw materials purchased in bulk from China. Nutritional supplements, herbs and vitamins are often made using materials from China.
Not everything from China is bad, but in our own lab tests here at Natural News, we’ve been shocked to discover just how frequently products from China are contaminated with metals, chemical solvents and pesticide residues. We have rejected dozens of suppliers in our own search for clean ingredients to use in our product formulations, and we’ve even had to send back product that showed up at our warehouse and simply didn’t meet our stringent quality control requirements. (True fact: We recently had to return several thousand pounds of goji berries to one supplier after discovering the product failed our quality control review.)
But here’s the even scarier part in all this:
I am repeatedly told I’m the ONLY person asking these questions
When I talk to suppliers of raw materials, I am repeatedly told that I am the only person asking them for heavy metals tests, pesticide tests and product samples to send to our own lab.
This happens over and over again. From this, I have learned there is virtually NO due diligence being conducted by natural products retailers. Most retailers simply buy and sell, shipping boxes and moving product while turning a blind eye to the truth about what they are buying and selling. They literally do not care whether their products are contaminated with heavy metals. They just want to sell, sell, sell!
Even more shockingly — and I seem to be the only journalist reporting this jaw-dropping fact — there are currently NO LIMITS set by the USDA for contamination of certified organic foods. A product may be USDA organic and still contain deadly levels of mercury, arsenic or lead. The USDA does not test or even regulate heavy metals in foods via its organic certified program!
So you can be shopping at a famous natural products retailer and you might pick up a product carrying the USDA Certified Organic logo, thinking, “This is certified healthy and safe by the U.S. government.” You are being lied to. That product could be grown in China in a field of mercury runoff from an industrial factory. It could contain ridiculously high levels of mercury, arsenic, PCBs and even chemical solvents. You could be eating pure death while paying a premium for it!
This is not an attack on the USDA, by the way. Their organic certification program is surprisingly good for the scope of what it attempts to accomplish. But understand that USDA organic certifies a process, not a result. At the farm level, it means foods are not intentionally grown with pesticides and herbicides, but it does not say anything whatsoever about heavy metals contamination of food production fields in China.
Massive organic food FRAUD
In truth, what’s really happening right now on a global scale is a massive organic food fraud. Food is grown in China and certified organic even though no U.S. inspectors even visit the farms. That food is then imported into the U.S. and almost never inspected. It’s packaged and sold at top dollar in natural foods retail stores, emblazoned with the USDA Organic label.
But nowhere along the way — except in extremely rare cases — is that food ever tested for heavy metals or other contaminants. This is why Mark Kastel correctly states this food can’t even be trusted “for dog food,” much less to feed yourself and your family.
Make no mistake about it: China is a nation full of immoral, unethical liars and deceivers. (Taiwan, on the other hand, is very different and has a much stronger moral code as well as basic human decency.) Remember: I speak Mandarin Chinese. I’ve lived in the Chinese culture. I’ve traveled throughout Asia and even given numerous public speeches to Chinese audiences. At the same time, I’ve investigated and written about food and food safety for more than a decade. Very few people are as qualified to tell you the truth about what’s really in your food coming out of China, and I can tell you that I don’t trust it.
In fact, the only way I will eat anything from China is if I subject it to extensive testing and verify that contamination levels are acceptably low. There are some great products out of China that are completely safe and healthy. Certain medicinal mushrooms, for example, are produced in China and are very clean. Some producers of goji berries are very honest and clean. There are no doubt organic growers who are producing very clean products in China, but these would be the exception, not the rule. By default, we must all now assume that anything from China is heavily contaminated.
Almost universally, food grown in North America is cleaner and less contaminated. This isn’t true 100% of the time, but usually so.
Toxic Chinese agriculture puts honest U.S. farmers out of business
The sad part about all this is that food from China is economically displacing U.S. and Canadian farmers who are generally far more honest and ethical in their farming practices. So while U.S. farmers are being put out of business for following the rules set by the EPA, FDA and USDA, the Chinese farmers are selling us contaminated, toxic “organic” food frauds produced by breaking all the rules!
That’s why I say grow local, buy local and eat local as much as possible. And until China cleans up its act on food contamination, do your best to avoid food from China. I don’t trust it unless EVERY BATCH is comprehensively lab tested and those lab tests are made public.
Props to Cornucopia’s Mark Kastel for having the courage to lay a lot of this out in congressional testimony. Rest assured Congress will never ask me to testify on food contamination because I would describe a truth so horrifying that people would stop eating for days…
P.S. The reason all your dogs and cats are dying from diabetes and cancer these days is because you’re giving them highly toxic pet treats imported from China. They are loaded with toxic solvents and industrial chemicals that cause permanent liver and kidney damage, among other devastating side effects. You can find these toxic, colorful pet treats sold at all the major pet store retailers. They are selling you PET DEATH and making a tidy profit doing so.
Originally published by http://www.naturalnews.com
Tags: Body & Mind, Children, health, meditation, psychology, Society, Spirituality, sustainable development
By Rosemary Byfield
How teachers cope with demands in the classroom may be made easier with the use of “mindfulness” techniques, according to new US research.
Learning to pay attention to the present in a focused and non-judgemental or mindful way on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course helped teachers in the study to feel less stressed and to avoid burnout.
Dr Richard Davidson, chair of the Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States, is the study co-author. “The research indicated that simple forms of mindfulness training can help promote a certain type of emotional balance, leading to decreased stress,” he said in an interview on the Centre’s website.
“[Teachers] perceive greater ability to remain present in the classroom for their children and less likely to respond to children with anger,” Davidson said.
“[Teachers] perceive greater ability to remain present in the classroom for their children and less likely to respond to children with anger,” Davidson said.
Stress, burnout, and ill health are increasing burdens experienced by teachers in schools leading to absenteeism and prematurely leaving the profession.
“This is an area where mindfulness may be particularly important and interesting,” he said.
“We wanted to offer training to teachers in a format that would be engaging and address the concerns that were specifically relevant to their role as teachers,” said lead researcher Lisa Flook in a statement.
Researchers trained 18 teachers to use MBSR techniques designed to handle difficult physical sensations, feelings, and moods and develop empathy for pupils in challenging situations.
Randomly assigned teachers practised a guided meditation at home for at least 15 minutes per day and learned specific strategies for preventing and dealing with stressful factors in the classroom. These included “dropping in”, a process of bringing attention to breathing, thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations; and ways of bringing kindness into their experiences, particularly challenging ones.
Mindfulness originates from Buddhist meditation but was developed for secular use in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts in the United States.
“The most important outcome that we observed is the consistent pattern of results, across a range of self-report and objective measures used in this pilot study, that indicate benefits from practising mindfulness,” Flook said.
Study participant and teacher Elizabeth Miller found that mindfulness could be practised anywhere, and at any time.
“Breath awareness was just one part of the training, but it was something that I was able to consistently put into practice,” Miller said.
“Now I spend more time getting students to notice how they’re feeling, physically and emotionally, before reacting to something. I think this act of self-monitoring was the biggest long-term benefit for both students and teachers.”
In Britain, teachers Richard Burnett and Chris Cullen developed the Mindfulness in Schools project, “.b” or “Stop, Breathe and Be!” programme. After experiencing the benefits of mindfulness themselves they wanted to teach it in the classroom. Their course is now taught in 12 countries.
Tags: Body & Mind, environmental issues, Food, Nature, Society, sustainable development
By Channaly Philipp
Biodynamic chocolate business lets nature rule, and the results are world-class
The cacao farmer felt he had no choice. He called Santiago Peralta, the man who normally bought his cacao, and offered to sell him his land so he could move to the city.
Peralta asked, “What are you going to do in the city? Beg for money?”
He went to meet the farmer, who said his back caused him pain and he couldn’t carry the bags of cacao anymore.
The solution? Peralta gave the farmer $120 so he could buy a donkey.
That was four years ago. The farmer has carried on with farming cacao, and he never went into the city to beg for money.
Instead a donkey trend caught on. “Everyone started getting donkeys, just like that,” Peralta said.
Peralta, 41, makes some of the best chocolate on Earth, working with 3,000 farming families in his native Ecuador. Pacari Chocolate, which he and his wife Carla Barbota launched in 2008, swept last year’s International Chocolate Awards, taking home 23. These awards are where the world’s finest chocolates are put to the test through blind tastings.
If there was ever the notion that exceptional chocolate could only come out of Europe’s strongholds of culinary achievement, that victory proved the idea wrong. An increasing appreciation for regional authenticity has meant regions that used to be completely off the radar are coming into their own in the most surprising ways.
Just like a bottle of wine, a chocolate bar can reveal its provenance, its terroir, and even when it came about, as long as its flavor remains true to the cacao beans that were used.
Generally, in a mass production process, those flavors are flattened and standardized through over-processing and over-roasting and result in chocolate bars each as predictable as the next. Take a Hershey’s bar, for example.
The business of staying true to the bean is completely different. Pacari’s “tree-to-bar” production, for example, oversees every stage, from the cacao trees to the finished product, in the process creating income for all along the chain, from farmer to packager.
Ecuador has been producing cacao for hundreds of years, becoming the world’s largest cacao exporter in the late 19th century. Its production made fortunes, and played a crucial role in securing its independence from Spain, with farmers seeing the allure of being able to sell not only to Spain, but to other nations as well.
Its geography is particular: a small country, where jungles, deserts, mountains, and volcanoes all juggle for space, with climates ranging from desertic to monsoonic.
Peralta points out different characteristics of single-origin Pacari chocolate bars, tying region and flavor: floral and fruity from the Manabi region, which is dry, and caramel notes from the Esmeraldas region, which is rainy and green.
Then there is the spectacular limited edition Nube bar, which won the gold at the chocolate awards. Peralta won’t reveal the location of the cacao trees whose beans yield a chocolate that’s unbelievably floral—the aroma smacks of roses. It’s all in the terroir and the specific year. These results can’t be engineered; they are happy surprises from nature.
You could call it an accident, but Peralta is willing to partner with Nature and let her have her way, resulting in incredible flavors.
“It’s like love,” he muses. “You don’t control things in life. I have a friend, he’s a great chocolate producer in a company in the U.K. called Booja-Booja, who says, ‘Relax: Nothing is under control.’ Relax! You have nothing to do with it. You’re trying to go one way but the flow is the other way. You don’t control anything.”
Peralta is pushing the envelope as far away from mass production methods as possible. All his chocolate is already organic, and he pays double the market price, a premium far above the going Fair Trade rate, which he said pays 6 percent above the market price (he has little to say that is complimentary about the labeling scheme).
And he’s also making biodynamic chocolate, using an agriculture approach that takes into account the rhythms of nature, pioneered by Rudolf Steiner. The Demeter biodynamic seal took four years to obtain.
Biodynamic means power, you accept the forces, you act with the forces, you go with the flow, you don’t produce 24/7 – Santiago Peralta, co-founder, Pacari
“Biodynamic means power, you accept the forces, you act with the forces, you go with the flow, you don’t produce 24/7.” He became familiar with biodynamic concepts while living in Germany for a year. And he’ll admit, there are some strange practices, but he says they work.
For example, one practice calls for a cow horn filled with a mix of cow waste and silica, buried in the ground. As the concept goes, the silica powder acts as conductor for light and energy, sending concentrated energy underground, benefiting the cacao trees.
Only about 20 grams per hectare of the mixture is used for the cacao trees. There are no fertilizers, no pesticides.
Or when there’s a drought, a refreshing biodynamic mixture is applied over the trees.
“Just a tiny amount. Can you imagine?” asks Peralta. “Normally you need to pump oil from the Amazon, passing the mountains, to Esmaraldas port, passing Panama, going to Germany to make [oil] into a chemical, coming back, taking a truck” to then apply half a ton of chemicals per hectare, which would take someone a week to do. With the biodynamic method, one person covers eight hectares a day with a pump, just walking around.
“This is sustainable. And the cacao is stronger, you can tell it’s stronger.” The crushers that crack the cacao beans had never stopped in years of production. But the first year cracking the biodynamic cacao beans, it happened.
“But just taste it, it’s better,” he adds.
The biodynamic methods were used to make Pacari’s Raw chocolate bar, which has won multiple awards. The chocolate is minimally processed, at low temperatures, and is the only biodynamic chocolate in the world.
“It’s a special chocolate where you see a lot of flavors, every time you try it, you get something different. It’s not a chocolate, which is a nice chocolate, which is gone. It’s still in your mouth. It’s there—boom, aggressive. It has personality, tannic, like wine.”
The flavors evolve as the chocolate melts on your tongue, in turns dry, woodsy, fruity.
The nutritional profile is particular, too: Antioxidant counts are through the roof.
Direct Trade Cacao
Maricel Presilla, a chocolate judge, culinary historian, and chef in Hoboken, N.J., as well as a winner of a James Beard Award, has seen the benefits that a direct-trade approach has had on farmers. She herself comes from a family of farmers in Cuba, where her grandparents were cacao farmers.
She has seen stark differences between farms that were using biodynamic methods and ones that weren’t. During a dry spell, the biodynamic farm’s trees were full with cacao for harvesting. “Next door,” which wasn’t biodynamic, “they had nothing.”
“People begin to care a lot more about the land,” she said. “They see the land as alive, in tune with the seasons.”
Not only that, but cacao, she said, is a “generous plant that likes to live with other plants” so it’s not rare for farmers to also grow coconuts, bananas, and coffee, for their own use. “A typical sight on a cacao farm is to see a farmer carrying plantain, yucca, something like that.”
When Peralta started working with farmers, he began working with farming families. “We believe in family relations in southern countries. It’s very important.”
Peralta wanted high quality, organic cacao, which wasn’t a hard sell for the farmers. “A lot of people don’t believe in chemicals—a lot of people don’t have the money to pay for chemicals.”
He started offering prizes for the best cacao among the farmers he was working with, and also came up with practical, simple, and more importantly, cheap solutions to improve the quality of the cacao.
Some had social consequences, for example, cacao used to be packaged in 100-pound bags, which only strong men could carry. Now, the bags were smaller, able to hold 50 pounds at the most, which opened the door for women to work.
“The women are more clever with money,” Peralta said, so the way the money is spent has shifted too. When men used to get paid, their friends would wait around on payday, hoping for a round of drinks. “Just one stupid thing. We saw it, we changed it, and now life has changed for these people.”
There are small adjustments like these and larger community initiatives, but all of these come about because of direct relationships with farmers.
Peralta spends about a third of his time in the field. The farmers are his friends, his associates, he says.
Presilla says something as simple as paying a premium for cacao has a huge effect on the life of farmers.
Both Peralta and Presilla are members of a relatively new organization, Direct Cacao, formed last year in Honduras. “We have the best chocolate makers from Europe and America involved,” she said. It will open to new members this month.
The goal is to establish a direct network between farmers and chocolate makers, as exemplified in Peralta’s work. There will also be educational programs, and a first international conference in the Dominican Republic.
Ever since the practices in the Ivory Coast were exposed, large companies have been careful. “Even companies that seem to be gigantic do something that is good. Mars, for example, pours millions of dollars in research.” Still, she said, “You cannot have great chocolate inexpensively.”
In the normal chocolate production chain, the divide is wide and long between raw material and finished product. The history of chocolate production is rife with exploitation and in the Ivory Coast, infamously spawned child slavery and human trafficking years ago.
In Ecuador, there are cacao farmers who had produced cacao generation after generation, but had never tasted chocolate.
“We gave them chocolate for the first time in their lives,” Peralta said. “They said ‘It’s sweet! It’s really nice.’ Can you imagine? Your grand-grand-grand grandfather was growing cacao [and you’re growing cacao] and you never have tried it. They are very proud. We have the best chocolate, we have the best cacao on Earth.”
Tags: Body & Mind, environmental issues, Food, health, Society, sustainable development
By Marc Sahr
Many health-conscious people read labels, checking for the customary, relatively easy-to-understand elements: the amount of sodium, sugar, vitamins, calories, carbohydrates, and so on. A skim through the ingredients list can also be informative, but for the majority of consumers the ingredient names don’t really provide a clear picture of what they’re eating.
How many people know what dipotassium phosphate is? How about propylene glycol? Monosodium glutamate? This latter one is more commonly known as MSG, but would not likely be labeled as such.
Here’s a look at some of the ingredients you may not know your eating.
Considered “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, propylene glycol is used in antifreeze.
While the version used in cars is ethylene glycol, propylene glycol nonetheless is an anti-freeze. What’s so surprising about that? Well it is also found in cake mixes, salad dressings, deodorants, and dog food.
This ingredient is used to preserve food.
So what effect will it have on your body? If you are allergic, you will develop a rash if you ingest it—or in the case of a deodorant, if you put it on your skin.
Hand sanitizer often contains propylene glycol.
Like pesticides or fertilizers? Well this ingredient, found in Coca Cola and non-dairy creamers is also found in many pesticides and fertilizers. Yummy! Originally used to slow the growth of bacteria, it also acts as a coagulant for foods such as pudding. It is used in pastas and cereals to reduce the cooking time.
It is also used in waterproofing, disinfecting and sanitizing products.
Untreated phosphate at the Marca factory in the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.
Love raspberry or vanilla flavoring? Chances you may have eaten castoreum, which is a gland that beavers use, along with urine, to mark their territory. This gland is very popular as it is used in perfumes as well as in some food flavorings. It qualifies as a “natural” ingredient in all-natural foods.
Two North American beavers at the Smithsonian National Zoo on Aug. 29, 2012.
We have mostly heard about MSG because many American-Chinese restaurants used this
extensively, and unless you see a sign that says “no MSG,” generally it is assumed MSG is used. While not recognized as unsafe by the FDA, people have been known to have adverse reactions from high blood pressure to heart rate problems. Most people do not experience any symptoms.
Fast food restaurant KFC lists the ingredients in all of its dishes online; monosodium glutamate appears 61 times in total.
While it’s not really an ingredient, mercury is nonetheless present in some fish people consume, especially swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel. In these fish, the mercury level is generally higher than 1.1 parts per million (PPM), and they should be avoided by pregnant, or nursing women and young children.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the mercury in these fish could affect the nervous system of both mother and unborn child.
Some Ingredients You May Recognize, But Should Watch Out For: High Fructose Corn Syrup
Almost everything we eat and drink these days has this ingredient. Especially if you order out often from fast food restaurants.
Sugary sodas, such as Fanta, contain as much as 52 grams of sugar. Many people now go out of their way to actually buy the Mexican version of sodas that contain real sugar to avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
The prevalence of this ingredient in American food has been identified as a cause of obesity and type II diabetes.
While not a deadly item if used in moderation, sodium has become a staple additive that Americans have used extensively. Sodium holds excess water in the body. The body requires a certain amount of sodium for the muscles and nerves to function properly, and to control blood pressure and blood volume, according National Institute of Health.
Too much sodium, however, causes high blood pressure, heart diseases, and kidney disease.
Foods containing excessive levels of sodium include cereals, salad dressings, crackers, and bread.
Don’t be misled by some labels on products that state “0 trans fat.” According to an article on Health.com, a labeling loophole allows foods with up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving to be labeled “0 trans fat.”
Generally when the ingredients list partially hydrogenated oil, the food contains trans fats. In New York City, trans fat has been outlawed in restaurants—but the NYC Department of Health also allows for 0.5 grams per serving.
The ban in New York City restaurants does not apply to sealed packages, such as crackers, made with shortening or partially hydrogenated oil.
Why are trans fats bad? According to the Mayo Clinic, “Trans fat raises your ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol.”
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Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, environmental issues, Food, health, Society, sustainable development
By Sally Appert
As the use of factory meat farms increases in China, scientists are concerned that the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria could pose a worldwide health risk.
Over half the antibiotics in China are given to livestock, a recent study has shown.
The demand for pork has been rising in China, and half the world’s pigs are in China. Pig farmers routinely add antibiotics to their animals’ feed to promote growth and reduce disease risk, but they are not required to report the amount of antibiotics used, according to online media The World.
The World interviewed staff at a large commercial hog farm in the city of Jiaxing in Zhejiang Province, where the pigs were fed in a big enclosed building. The manager declined to be interviewed.
However, one employee agreed to talk even though she didn’t have permission. “It takes a few months here for the pigs to grow big enough for sale. The pigs are fed really good materials,” she said, according to The World.
The antibiotics may make the pigs grow faster, but overusing antibiotics can lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
Scientists from China and the United States conducted a study last year on hog manure from commercial farms in China. As expected, they found large numbers of drug-resistant bacteria.
More surprisingly, they found that different drug-resistant genes could hop around in clusters from one type of bacteria to another, producing bacteria that were resistant to multiple drugs.
These hard-to-kill pathogens could spread to humans.
“The big problem is the resistance can be transferred to human beings and also could be transferred globally by food export or import,” Dr. Xiao Yonghong of the Antibacterial Resistance Investigation Unit of China’s Health Ministry said, according to The World.
China isn’t the only country with this problem. The online media Mother Jones reports that China is merely following in America’s footsteps, since half of China’s antibiotics use is for livestock, while the United States uses 77 percent for livestock.
It’s hard to compare it that way, though, because people in China use 10 times as many antibiotics per capita as people in the United States, Time reported according to Mother Jones.
“Chinese pork farming is changing rapidly,” Mother Jones states, citing a study by the Dutch bank Rabobank, showing that between 2001 and 2010, the number of hogs from factory farms increased while the number of hogs from small family farms dropped by half.
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Tags: CCP, China, environmental issues, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society, sustainable development, Tibet
By Maura Moynihan
When Chinese Premiere Hu Jintao flew into New Delhi on March 28, 2012, for the BRIC Summit, he careened onto unfamiliar terrain: a democracy with a free press where a 27-year-old Tibetan refugee, Jamphel Yeshi, walked to a public protest, poured kerosene over his body, and lit himself on fire while shouting for an end to Chinese atrocities in Tibet.
The searing images from India of Jamphel Yeshi’s burning body exposed to the world the cost of China’s reign of terror in Tibet, which has been well concealed for 61 years.
Since March 16, 2011, 121 people inside Tibet and 6 people outside Tibet have lighted themselves on fire in public in defiance of Chinese Communist assaults on their Buddhist faith, but there are no journalists or diplomats to bear witness to the carnage, only raw video that reaches the Internet.
There is another potent source of this explosion of Tibetan outrage, which receives negligible international coverage: the covert history of China’s rape and pillage of Tibet’s ancestral lands and waters.
In Asian folklore Tibet is known as “The Western Treasure House.” Its people have been careful stewards of this bounteous terrain for millennia. Tibet’s blessing, its remote plateau, is now its curse: China controls the “Third Pole” with an iron fist, and there is no one to stop it.
The elemental facts about Tibet are not widely known, yet any map of the Tibetan Plateau reveals the enormous resource and strategic advantage gained by its capture.
Tibet is a unique geomorphic entity; its 46,000 glaciers comprise the Earth’s third-largest ice mass. This “Third Pole,” filled with pristine riches of wildlife, minerals, timber, and above all, water, is a vital component of the planet’s ecosystem.
Tibet is the fount of the Yangtze, Yellow, Indus, Brahmaputra, Chenab, Sutlej, Salween, and Mekong rivers, which flow through 11 nations, nourishing 3 billion people from Peshawar to Beijing. Today, all but one of Asia’s great rivers—the Ganges, which rises from the Tibetan plateau but fortunately just outside the Chinese border—are controlled at the Tibetan headwaters by the Chinese Communist Party.
In 2000, China launched a vast development project titled Xi bu dai fa, the Opening and Development of the Western Regions (of Xinjiang and Tibet, which together comprise one half of China’s land mass). A massive influx of Chinese settlers, urbanization, and forced relocation of nomads swiftly followed.
The Xizang railway, which opened in 2006, transports Tibet’s vast supplies of minerals, stone, and lumber to the mainland and brings in a flood of Chinese engineers and laborers who have built at least 160 hydro dams across Tibet and have plans for hundreds more.
Chinese engineers now operate multiple dams and mines all across Tibet, polluting the rivers at their source—you can see all of this on Google Earth. The Chinese government dismisses concerns of its own scientists and those of neighboring states alarmed by a sudden decline in water levels and fisheries.
In the 1990s, China refused to sign the U.N. treaty on transboundary rivers and increased militarization of the Tibetan Plateau, while denying journalists and international observers access to the troubled region.
Author Michael Buckley, who captured rare footage of dam construction in his film Meltdown in Tibet, observes: “China doesn’t have to listen to anyone on this. China has Tibet, so China has all the cards.” (For Mr. Buckley’s videos and archives visit www.meltdownintibet.com)
When recently asked about the crisis in Tibet, Chinese official media stated: “The Dalai Lama reminds us of the uncontrolled and cruel Nazis during the Second World War. … How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jews!”
Many diplomats and journalists are puzzled by China’s obsessive demonization of the Dalai Lama, the distinguished Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, but the Politburo’s Stalinoid hysteria works. It squelches any and all rational discussion of China’s exploitation of Tibet’s resources, and subverts attention away from how Chinese mines and dams have created a looming environmental catastrophe on the world’s most populous continent.
The preservation and management of Tibet’s glaciers and the rivers they sustain is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. In the 11 countries through which Tibet’s waters flow, population growth and industrial development is projected to double within 50 years.
The combined effects of rapid development, desertification, and water scarcity have already created extreme cycles of droughts and floods, food shortages, and pandemics. The Chinese mainland is so imperiled that in April 2011, the Yangtze River water flows were at their lowest level in record.
Yet, despite irrefutable evidence of the dangers of overexploiting Tibet’s water resources, the Chinese government will not modify or downscale plans for dams, tunnels, railroads, and highways across the Tibetan plateau.
Since Chairman Mao invaded Tibet in 1951, China has deployed a huge military infrastructure across the Tibetan Plateau, which gives China a continuous border with Thailand, Burma, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The border areas are now filled with military airfields and PLA battalions. In the coming age of “water wars,” China has a firm hand on the water tower of Asia.
China insists that Tibet is “an internal affair of the state,” and for decades, the world has turned away in uncomfortable silence as the slaughter of a helpless civilian populace continues without impediment or penalty. The Chinese Communist Party has for 61 years controlled the narrative, but to ignore Tibet is to misread how the Chinese occupation intensifies environmental, economic, and military instability in Asia and the world.
Tsetan, a Tibetan journalist based in Delhi, says: “For years, we have protested the desecration of our culture, the yoking of our rivers, and the mining of our sacred mountains, but China will not listen: They shoot us, torture us, and there is no one to stop them. Now people inside Tibet are driven to burning their bodies to get the world to understand what China is doing to Tibet, and the world had better wake up before it’s too late.”
Maura Moynihan is a journalist and researcher who has worked for many years with Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal. Her works of fiction include “Yoga Hotel” and “Kaliyuga.”
This article was first published by Rangzen Alliance (rangzen.net).
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Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, censorship, China, environmental issues, Food, health, Society, sustainable development
By Gu Chunqiu
Following outrage among netizens, demands by Beijing attorneys, and media pressure, the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources recently issued a report on the quality of the nation’s groundwater. The report has failed to address the scope or the severity of the problem, say critics.
Concern about groundwater seized the public’s attention in early February after blog posts by the journalist Dong Fei about the pumping of industrial waste water underground in eastern China’s Shandong Province. Chemical and paper plants in Jiangsu Province, just south of Shangdong, and in Huabei (a region of several provinces in northern China) were also reported using wells to dispose of their waste water.
By mid-February 2.9 million netizens published posts with pictures of water pollution in their hometowns in response to a request from Dong.
Three Beijing attorneys then publicly requested that the authorities publish official data on China’s groundwater pollution and media in China took up the issue.
In later March, a 400-page report titled “2011 Data on Groundwater Quality at Nationally Monitored Sites” appeared.
Environmental scientist Zhao Zhangyuan , a retired member of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, told the state-run Jinghua Times (a subsidiary of Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily) that the report used outdated 1993 standards, which do not test for many organic pollutants that make up the bulk of modern pollution.
The Nanjing Survey Center of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences monitored groundwater near the Yangtze River Delta—a heavily urbanized area in eastern China that includes Shanghai—and found that it contained cancer-causing chemicals such as dichloroethane and dichloromethane, and other organic chemicals known to affect the nervous system, kidneys, and liver, such as toluene and chloroform. None of these chemicals are covered under the 1993 standards.
Available evidence suggests that China suffers from groundwater pollution on a much larger scale than the authorities have been willing to disclose.
Studies done by the China Geological Survey since 2006 show that in the Huabei region, only 22.2 percent of the region’s groundwater was safe to drink. Groundwater makes up the bulk of the region’s drinking water supply.
The study found that throughout the region, groundwater at shallow levels was found to be heavily polluted. Although the groundwater at deeper levels was found to be cleaner, 12.86 percent of it was found to be polluted as well.
According to the Qianzhan Industry Research Institute, a Shenzhen-based think tank, China will increasingly turn to groundwater sources for its drinking water supplies between now and 2017, due to the country’s relative lack of water resources.
The research institute projects that approximately 70 percent of the Chinese population, or over 400 out of China’s 660 cities, will draw their drinking water primarily from groundwater sources.
China’s rural population draws most of its drinking water supplies from wells, which tap into shallow-level groundwater sources. However the indiscriminate use of fertilizer and pesticide has severely polluted groundwater in the countryside.
“Cancer villages” have appeared in Henan, Anhui, Sichuan, Guangdong, Heilongjiang, and Shandong provinces.
According to a Voice of America report, groundwater in the Huabei region has been found to contain heavy metals far exceeding allowable limits, including mercury, chromium, cadmium, and lead.
In addition, organic substance pollution has appeared in: the southern suburbs of Beijing; Shijiazhuang, the capital of northern China’s Hebei Province; Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province; and the Yuxi Plain in Henan Province. The main pollutants are benzene, carbon tetrachloride, and trichloroethylene, all of which can cause cancer and other health problems.
Besides these pollutants, at least 100 million people in China are drinking groundwater with dangerous levels of arsenic, which can cause cardiovascular problems and an increased risk of cancer, as well as fluorine, which is known to cause bone deformities in children and kidney problems.
According to the Voice of America report, companies throughout China have been digging wells for the sole purpose of discharging industrial effluent into the groundwater for the past 20 years.
Chinese netizens have since gone online to express their unhappiness over the issue. On Sina Weibo—a popular microblog service similar to Twitter—a user named Wang Pan wrote, “Large businesses are heartlessly pumping pollutants into our groundwater supply, and yet the government, blinded by political goals, has ignored and even openly tolerated this.
“Our rivers and streams suffer from the pollution of surface water, but our very water sources suffer from the pollution of groundwater. How is this different from nuclear waste? This will end the lives of our future generations. When there is no more clean water left in China, what will be the use of having GDP?”
Wang Pan’s account was removed shortly after the comment was posted, showing the regime’s unwillingness to allow free discussion of the problem.
According to Fan Xiao, a geologist and chief engineer at the Sichuan Provincial Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, China currently lacks official regulations on the discharge of wastewater into groundwater sources, and state agencies lack the capability to enforce regulations.
“[We] are heavily reliant on our groundwater sources, and if they become polluted, cleaning them up will be virtually impossible,” Fan said.
Rapid urbanization has driven the growth of both the extent and severity of mainland China’s groundwater pollution problems. Key to this is the communist regime’s single-minded pursuit of GDP growth.
According to the 2012 Chinese Cancer Registry Annual Report, due to extreme levels of environmental pollution, there are 3.5 million new cases of cancer in mainland China every year, resulting in 2.5 million deaths annually. This is the equivalent of 8,550 new cases of cancer being diagnosed every day.
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Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, environmental issues, Society, Spirituality
By Cassie Ryan
A police officer ended up ill in hospital after jumping into a filthy river in Zhejiang Province to rescue a 14-year-old girl trying to commit suicide.
Zhang Guangcong, 51, dived beneath the severely polluted water three times to reach the teenager, who had sunk below the surface of the river in Wenzhou City.
He told the Metro Express that the water was so dirty he kept his eyes closed the whole time, and relied on instinct to find her.
A few hours later, Zhang began to cough and vomit, and went to the hospital the next day with other symptoms like dizziness, and skin irritation. He was diagnosed with a severe lung infection, probably caused by bacteria from the dirty water.
According to the Express, that part of the river is black with pollution, and has a terrible stench. The banks are covered in rotten food and other domestic waste, and there are rats running around during the day.
An elderly local called Mr. Lin told the media that he used to wash his clothes in the river, but now no one dares go near the water. He added: “A badge factory discharges its electroplating waste directly into the river; they were sued by residents over 10 years ago, but they kept on doing it anyway.”
Tags: archaeology, Body & Mind, CCP, China, Culture, environmental issues, film, funny things, health, human rights, IT and Media, labor camps, Nature, persecution of dissidents, Science, Society, sustainable development
And some more…
By Michelle Yu
“When I die, bury me on the sunny side of the hill, because I’m afraid of the cold,” a child, now nameless and faceless, said to his fellow teenage prisoners over half a century ago. For the 4,000-5,000 juvenile prisoners at the Dabao labor camp, such requests were common, as the children were surrounded by death every day.
By Gu Qinger
Chinese torture victims have confronted Xinhua, the official propaganda organ of the Chinese regime, over its publication of a report by Liaoning officials which denies that inmates are being tortured at a labor camp in the northeast of the country called Masanjia.
By Matthew Robertson
It would have been impossible even very recently in China to produce a documentary about torture and slavery in an officially-run labor camp, and not be thrown in jail for it. Chinese independent filmmaker Du Bin, however, has done just that, and he’s now in Hong Kong speaking at film screenings and blithely taking interviews from overseas media.
By Shar Adams
WASHINGTON—After five days and 40 testimonies from international witnesses from the military, scientific and academic fields, a committee of six former Congress members agreed to seek international support to break a “truth embargo” on encounters with extraterrestrial life.
By Jack Phillips
Some are questioning the origin so-called “ring around the sun” that appeared on Monday.Reports said that the ring is a 22-degree halo, also known as a sun halo, according to ABC News. The halo is formed by small ice crystals that are contained in cirrostratus clouds. The sunlight then refracts through the ice at the 22-degree angle, creating the optical phenomenon.
By Matthew Robertson and Carol Wickenkamp
A group of nearly a dozen Chinese human rights lawyers who attempted to investigate an extralegal “brainwashing center” in the southeast of the country were violently set upon by guards on May 13, before being handed over to police, who beat them further and held them overnight before releasing them.
By Cassie Ryan
While the latest official news from China says that the H7N9 bird flu outbreak is now under control, a new international study urges continued caution.
By Gao Zitan
Chinese media recently exposed quality issues in the bottled water industry, saying its regulation levels are from the Soviet era.
Beijing News reported May 2 that over 10 Chinese experts had found that the standards for bottled water are very low, with only 20 test indices versus 106 for tap water quality.
By Will Hickey
One reason behind greater pollution leading to global warming has been artificially lowered gas prices brought by subsidies. Governments have carried on this shortsighted policy to foster growth and satisfy consumers. But as world fuel prices begin rising again, the costs of subsidy—both budgetary and environmental—will come to the fore.
By Matthew Robertson
University professors and administrators in China have been given clear instructions recently about precisely what topics of discussion are off-limits in the classroom.
By Sally Appert
Communist officials in Shaanxi Province have resorted to hiring fake monks to collect donations in an attempt to recover the debt they incurred from a large development project near the ancient Famen Temple.
Accused of violating one-child policy, Zhang Yimou’s real crime was backing Jiang Zemin
By Xia Xiaoqiang
A successful Chinese film director becomes entangled with the propaganda schemes of a brutal dictator. The director enjoys a rich and privileged life, but then loses everything when the dictator’s political opponents charge him with violating the nation’s family-planning laws.
By Zachary Stieber
Byzantine mosaic floor: The “extraordinary” floor was in a public building during the Byzantine Period in what is today Isreal, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, Culture, documentary, environmental issues, film, human rights, IT and Media, labor camps, Nature, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Science, Society, sustainable development, technology
Since I have not posted any articles in a long time I will post some so you can select those that are of interest to you.
By Sarah Laskow
We have seen a lot of solar chargers in our day. And among all of them, this is the first one we’ve seen that we will definitely run out and buy as soon as it’s made available in the U.S. It’s a portable socket that gets its power from the sun rather than the grid. You plug into a window instead of into the wall. It’s easy.
By Joshua Philipp
Epoch Times Staff
Watching the soft glow of fireflies could become a more common activity if researchers at Syracuse University have anything to do with it. They’re developing a method to artificially create luciferase, the chemical behind the soft glow of fireflies, and are working to create commercial lights that mimic the insects’ bioluminescence.
These migrants know why they keep moving
By Francisco Gavilán
When I was going to travel through Central Asia for the umpteenth time, I was looking for new and enriching experiences, including living for a while with the nomads of Song Kul, in Kyrgyzstan.
By Tara MacIsaac
Earth permanently deformed: Geologists have discovered that the Earth’s crust may not be as elastic as previously thought. Quakes in Northern Chile have permanently deformed the Earth.
Celebrating compassion and higher living across the globe
By Arshdeep Sarao
In India the full moon day of May 25, 2013, is being celebrated as Buddha Purnima or the birth anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni. This year the Buddha becomes 2,556 years old.
By Matthew Robertson
‘I didn’t take blood money from a government that is murdering its people,’ says Jeffrey Van Middlebrook, Silicon Valley inventor.
By Leonardo Vintini
Everybody longs for happiness, but it seems like a hidden treasure. One way or another—consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly—everything we do, our every hope, is related to a deep desire for happiness.
Tags: environmental issues, Science, Society, sustainable development, technology
Researchers engineer bacteria to produce first biofuel identical to commercial fuel
By Simon Veazey
Until now biofuels were not completely compatible with unconverted modern engines, working inefficiently and corrosively.
But researchers say they have genetically engineered bacteria, splicing in tree and algae genes, to produce hydrocarbons identical to those used in commercial fuel.
The research was carried out at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom (UK), producing modified E. coli bacteria that produce enzymes that convert sugar into fatty acids which in turn are converted into fuel.
Professor John Love at the University of Exeter said in a statement: “Producing a commercial biofuel that can be used without needing to modify vehicles has been the goal of this project from the outset.”
“Global demand for energy is rising and a fuel that is independent of both global oil price fluctuations and political instability is an increasingly attractive prospect,” he said.
The ecological credentials of biofuels produced from food crops are sometimes criticized. But Love believes that a scaled-up version of the process would enable them to adjust the genes to allow the bacteria to produce fuel from animal manure, not sugar.
The research was partly funded by Shell’s research division, Rob Lee from Shell Projects & Technology said in a statement: “ While the technology still faces several hurdles to commercialisation, by exploring this new method of creating biofuel, along with other intelligent technologies, we hope they could help us to meet the challenges of limiting the rise in carbon dioxide emissions while responding to the growing global requirement for transport fuel.”
Tags: environmental issues, Food, sustainable development
Spring has sprung, and it’s time to start planting vegetable seeds indoors to transplant into the garden.
Jennifer Zoch, seed technician at Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds based in Iowa, explains that the benefits to starting plants by seed include keeping garden costs down as well as the fact that there are many plant varieties that cannot be found at local garden centres.
“The process begins with deciding what you and your family like to eat and size of the garden and seed selection,” Zoch said.
Seed selection options are heirloom (seeds used by past generations), hybrid (plants cross-bred for special traits), and organic (non-synthetic pesticides or fertilizers).
Regarding heirloom seeds, Zoch said, “Flavours are better and the vegetables come in different shapes and colours. There are specialty crops which apply to a region or provide for special needs, like apples for making cider.”
Ideal veggies to start early by seed are cold-weather crops such as lettuce, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, and cabbage.
When to plant indoors
To start various plant seeds indoors, count backward from the expected last frost date pertaining to the number of days for the plant to be ready to plant outdoors according to the seed packet instructions.
Containers and soil
Any container—even yogurt cups with plenty of holes for drainage—can be used along with a mixture of organic potting soil (soil, peat, and compost), explains Zoch.
Local garden centres sell seed-starting trays and plastic covers. Peat plugs are simple but peat has no nutrients, thus fertilizing is needed when the plants get their second round of leaves.
“Liquid fish emulsion added with water meets organic standards for fertilizer but is a little smelly,” Zoch said.
“Do not use raw manure or compost with grass clippings contaminated with herbicides as the residue might kill your seedlings. That is why it is good to be familiar with the source of the product you are using, and to buy local and/or organic whenever possible.”
Plastic covers trap moisture and warmth, but remove immediately after the seeds sprout in order to avoid fungus.
Once the seeds sprout, they need a lot of water, light, and ventilation, Zoch said.
“Many beginners kill plants by over watering. Water once a day (if needed) and at the same time each day before noon, so foliage can dry before nightfall to avoid fungus.” – Jennifer Zoch, Seed Savers Exchange
“Many beginners kill plants by over watering. Water once a day (if needed) and at the same time each day before noon, so foliage can dry before nightfall to avoid fungus.”
Re-pot when there are more than a couple of roots wrapped around the inside of the container or the drainage holes, or poking out of the peat plug. Zoch explains that plants can have a tough time getting established, stop growing, or even die if the root hairs are damaged while taking them out of the pot due to being root-bound.
The next step includes “decreasing water, moving plants to a cooler room for a few days, and regularly brushing your hand over the plants, or a few hours of an electric fan blowing gently on them to simulate wind,” Zoch said.
“This simulation strengthens the plant cells in the stem.”
One to two weeks later, gradually introduce the plants to the outdoor elements by placing them on the west side of a building or under a tree in the shade, then gradually move them away from the tree or building into more light. Cover the plants at night.
A couple of days prior to planting, till the garden soil and then till in peat and compost. Add granulated organic fertilizer and peat into each seed hole. Zoch advises covering with dirt any areas that may have peat exposed as it will pull moisture away from the plant and kill it.
“Set the plants about 1/2-inch lower than ground level for good watering and root development,” she said. “Water the plants gently with a watering can. Avoid getting the foliage wet.”
Never step on areas where plants will be planted, but rather walk between rows to make a path to weed, water, fertilize, and pick the produce.
Now, get the satisfaction of watching the plants you’ve carefully nurtured grow and produce.
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit that preserves heirloom plant varieties through regeneration, distribution, and seed exchange. To learn more from a webinar presented by Jennifer Zoch and Seed Savers Exchange, go to http://www.seedsavers.org/Education/Webinar-Archive/#seed_collection.
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