Tags: books, CCP, censorship, China, Culture, Falun Gong, human rights, IT and Media, Society
By Zhou Xing
Jason Q. Ng, a Google Policy Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, introduced his new book “Blocked on Weibo” on Aug. 29. The book reveals a large number of keywords censored by Chinese authorities on the Chinese microblog service Weibo.
Since 2011, Ng has spent nearly two years studying blocked keywords. He told the Epoch Times that among the 1,500 blacklisted words, 500 are unique, 150 of which are listed in his book. He believes he can help readers understand how Chinese netizens use the Internet by using various approaches to collect data from Weibo.
Ng said it’s sometimes difficult to predict which words will be blocked or why they are blocked, but those critical of the authorities are usually chosen.
For example, “tank” is associated with the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989, and so it is not surprising it should be blocked. But once the phrase “rich woman” was blocked. “Rich woman” was associated with Guo Meimei, a young woman who flaunted wealth and claimed she was an officer with the Chinese Red Cross. This combination of words rapidly circulated on the Internet, then it was blocked.
‘Canadian French’ Becomes a Forbidden Phrase
Ng’s research shows that Chinese authorities included proper names, place names, and some unlikely phrases in its censorship. The name Jiang Yanyong was blocked because he disclosed the fact that the Communist Party was concealing the SARS epidemic in 2003. Kashi, a place in Xinjiang where riots and conflicts often occur, is also blocked.
An unlikely phrase, “Canadian French,” is taboo on China’s Weibo because the Chinese pronunciation of “Canadian French” is “Jia Na Da Fa Yu” which contains two characters “Da Fa,” a term used in “Falun Dafa,” a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline.
Since 1999, the Chinese authorities have brutally persecuted practitioners of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong). The Communist Party has used the entire mainland Chinese media network to paint an image of Falun Dafa as mad and evil, while censoring Falun Dafa books and any materials that give an accurate description of Falun Dafa. Because the phrase “Canadian French” contains the two characters “Da Fa,” it has been deemed worthy of censorship.
Coincidentally, Ng’s study also found that “Renmin University of China Law School,” a Communist Party institution, also contains the characters “Da Fa,” so it was censored for the same reason that Canadian French was censored.
Ng notes that Western countries meet their citizens’ needs with fewer restrictions on the free flow of information, but China maintains strict control.
“I believe that Chinese citizens want more freedom of speech, but they still have no chance to participate in the discussion on network control.” Ng said.
Ng was very interested in how much the Communist Party invested in network control. He said that there must be at least 100,000 people censoring words on Weibo, because some blocking occurs within seconds after the nearly 600 million Weibo users have circulated the word(s).
Even the title of Ng’s book was deleted within a few minutes of being posted by a Weibo user. Ng said that even if the posted text were converted into a picture, it would still be censored.
Written in English by Arleen Richards.
Read the original Chinese article.
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: China, Society, Travels
Here are a few “must know” tips for first-time China travelers that can save you from getting into awkward and costly situations.
1. Bring Toilet Paper
Always travel with toilet paper, because generally toilet paper is not supplied in China’s public restrooms. You may be able to get free toilet tissue outside the restrooms at the Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, or at Xianyang International Airport in the city of Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province. Toilet paper can also be found in restrooms of upscale restaurants, clubs, or pubs, but I have not seen it in other places.
2. Beware of Pickpockets
Keep a close watch over your personal belongings, such as bags, luggage and items in your pockets. Keep your hands on them to avoid becoming a victim of pickpockets and thieves. If you leave your personal belongings unattended, the chance of losing them is high, and getting them back is all but zero.
3. Taxi Perils: Take Your Luggage First
Taxi cab rides are quite cheap and a popular way to get around in China. When you put your large luggage in the trunk or back seat of a taxi, at your destination remember to first take hold of your luggage and then pay the taxi driver for the fare. If you pay first and then get out of the vehicle, the taxi driver may drive away with your luggage. This is how I lost my luggage in the city of Nanchang, Jiangxi Province.
4. Taxi Perils: Get a Receipt
Don’t forget to ask the taxi driver for a fare receipt, as it can help you get your luggage back or claim your money back when the cab driver takes a long detour to make more money. I didn’t realize how useful a cab fare receipt could be until I lost my luggage in Nanchang.
5. Taxi Perils: Avoid Unlicensed Cabs
Beware of illegal or unlicensed cabs, which are frequently seen in China. Such taxi cabs are not hired by taxi companies, rather, they are private drivers. I once took a fake cab and paid two times higher than regular fare. I highly recommend taking taxis that are equipped with fare meters and using taxis operated by larger companies.
6. Fake Money
Watch out for counterfeit money, especially 20, 50, and 100 yuan bills.
You may wonder how you can tell counterfeit bills. Here is a good article on how to identify a fake bill:
7. Youth Hostel
Here is a good point. My personal experience with China’s International Youth Hostel has been positive. Their staff is cordial and enthusiastic, and they maintain a comparatively safe and sanitary environment. This hotel is a good choice for a moderate price.
8. Food Safety
You have to be really careful when eating mutton—or, in fact, any kind of meat— because some places, especially in the south of China, may sell fake mutton. They may put “mutton powder” on non-mutton meat. Who knows what kind of meat it may be. If it’s pork or chicken, then it’s not so bad, but if it’s rat meat it would really make you sick!
9. Protect Your Passport
Always carry your passport on you, and safeguard it to prevent having it stolen.
10. Use Suntan Lotion
Remember to put on suntan lotion before going sightseeing. I don’t burn easily, but I got a bad sunburn after spending about three hours in the sun during my visit to China, probably due to air pollution.
Smart shopping in China means bargaining, unless you are buying luxury brands. Start by offering one third of the asking price.
12. Brand-Name Knock-Offs
Never buy brand-name products in China, unless they are exclusively sold in China, because there are too many fake products there. Items that bear real trademarks, would be priced much higher than in other countries because of high tariffs imposed on imported products in China.
If something really bad happens to you, and you need help from the police, you should let the police know your “status” as clearly as possible.
When my friend and I lost our luggage in Nanchang, we first asked for help from a local radio station, police station, and train station. They paid no attention to us. After we explained that we were exchange students from the United States, that our passports were inside the stolen luggage, and that we wouldn’t be able to return home until our passports and luggage were found, the police and other agencies suddenly became very active in helping us—though in the end we recovered nothing.
Translated by Euly Luo. Written in English by Gisela Sommer.
Read the original Chinese article.
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Tags: CCP, China, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Carol Wickenkamp, Epoch Times
If one day during school you beat your teacher about the head, denounced him as a “capitalist roader,” and led your classmates in a public criticism session, you would probably want to apologize for it later—or even 40 years afterward.
Such violence was common during the Cultural Revolution in China, which officially ran from 1966 to 1976, but there has never been a process of reconciliation. The Communist Party has never given a proper account of the period, merely declaring that Mao Zedong, the leader, was “30 percent wrong.” Everyone else was to simply move on.
Now, Chinese people are leading the healing themselves. They are writing letters to the editor, and using Internet tools like blogs and microblogs to apologize to teachers and elders that they abused horribly during that violent decade.
Chen Xiaolu, the son of a famous Chinese communist general, even paid a visit to the home of his Beijing school principal, Wen Hanjiang, to personally apologize for what he had done.
“As a student Red Guard leader and school committee director, it was because of me that school leaders, teachers, and students were criticized and sent to labor camps,” Chen wrote in the public letter, published on his blog in August. The term “criticism” refers to the energetic verbal attacks and public humiliation that was dealt out to class enemies.
“I was eager to rebel against those authorities because I didn’t have the courage to stop the inhumane persecution,” he continued. “I was afraid to be considered against the Cultural Revolution. That was a horrible time.”
“Such actions against our constitution, which infringe on human rights this way, should never be repeated in any form in China!” he added.
The public repentance has met with a welcome ear on the Internet, as many young people who are increasingly frustrated with the Communist Party’s control over media and information encourage transparency from those who were led into violence.
The tragedy the Cultural Revolution brought to the Chinese people is hard to describe. – Gao Huimin, administrator, Fudan University
“The Cultural Revolution is the darkest time in China’s history,” wrote Gao Huimin, an administrator at Fudan University, on Weibo. “The tragedy it brought to the Chinese people is hard to describe.”
Because Chinese citizens are not well informed about the Cultural Revolution, they are often shocked by the disclosures in these repentance statements, alarmed by truth about the violent actions of ordinary citizens, particularly young people, against family, teachers, neighbors, and friends.
“I will never forgive myself,” Zhang Hongbing told Beijing News in an interview in March of this year. Zhang told how, as a student Red Guard, he denounced his own mother as a “counterrevolutionary” for criticizing Mao’s policies. He witnessed her arrest with no regret, and watched her kneeling on the stage before her execution six months later by a firing squad.
In an effort to atone, and as a reminder of that time, Zhang said he has appealed to the local authorities since 2011 to have his mother’s grave marked and preserved as a historical landmark and a reminder of that time in China’s history.
During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong radicalized a generation of young students—the Red Guards—to violently “rebel” and turn China upside down so he could enhance his grip on power in the Party amid the chaos. Political rivals had gained ground since the early 1960s, and the Cultural Revolution was Mao’s revenge.
The repentance letters reveal the truth about the fanatical students who brought about the deaths of millions of innocent people, either directly through brutal beatings or indirectly through denouncing them to authorities, who often sent them to the firing squads. Mao had given free rein to the young Red Guards, told police not to intervene, and endorsed their increasingly violent actions.
Former Red Guard Liu Boqin published an apology letter in Yanhuang Chunqiu, a reformist magazine, in March, saying that he had “grown old with painful memories of that year” when he denounced and harassed teachers and neighbors. He reflected that, although the environment of the Cultural Revolution coerced people into bad actions, still the individual must assume responsibility for his evil, not use excuses to wipe it away.
Retired Hebei official Song Jizhou published his apology letter to his junior high school language teacher Guo Kai in Southern Weekly in July. Because he was Guo’s star pupil, he was sent to collect evidence against the teacher, whose father was a landowner, one of the enemy political classes. Because of his reports, the teacher was denounced, criticized, and abused.
“I encourage all people who committed crimes during the Cultural Revolution to engage in deep reflection! China can’t have such chaos again. The Chinese people should never be taken advantage of that way ever again,” exhorted a Beijing netizen after reading repentance letters.
The Party still seeks to protect Mao’s image—the new Party leader Xi Jinping regularly invokes Maoist slogans, and has said firmly that the period of economic reform cannot be used to negate the Maoist era of “socialist construction”—but netizens do not hesitate to assign blame after learning the truth.
“Millions of Chinese people died from strife and poor farmers died from starvation,” wrote a netizen from Guangdong. “Only foolish people considered that devil Mao a lifesaver. If Mao Zedong wasn’t cruel and anti-life, how could so many people have died from starvation? Mao was truly a vampire, feeding off the people’s lives. He was a demon! Will people ever wake up?”
More in Chinese Regime
Tags: CCP, censorship, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Maia Lenei Buhre
In the first case of its kind, a teenager has been arrested after a post of his regarding a suspicious death on microblogging service, Sina Weibo went viral, Beijing Times reports.
Here’s the back story behind the tweet: A man was found dead outside a karaoke bar in Zhangjiachuan County, Gansu Province on September 12. While the official ruling is that his death was caused by an accidental high fall, the family of the deceased believes he was beaten up before being thrown out of a window.
16 year old Yang, a student at Zhangjiachuan middle school, posted several times about the murky circumstances of the death to his Weibo account two days after the death.
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Leo Timm
Over 20 police on Sept. 13 stormed into the home of Wang Gongquan, a Chinese billionaire, and took him away: for supporting political and social reform in China, he was to be charged with the catchall crime of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.”
Wang is the latest victim of a renewed Chinese Communist Party campaign to smother China’s nascent civil society movement. The push has mostly recently ensnared the venture capitalist Charles Xue, who was made to confess to visiting prostitutes on national television. Police confiscated from Wang’s house a computer, two framed pictures, and “citizen pins,” according to a friend.
“The way the Party does things is in movements. They’re doing a political movement right now, attacking entrepreneurs, activists, and people with influence on the Internet,” said Wang Juntao, a democracy supporter and scholar who studies the Communist Party.
Over 600 intellectuals from around the country have demanded that Wang be released.
Wang is a devout Buddhist, a venture capitalist with his own investment company, and a staunch supporter of the New Citizens’ Movement. The movement aims to help Chinese “press for their civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution through peaceful and legal approaches, to promote China’s peaceful transformation toward a more humane, freer, more just, and more loving society,” according to China Change, a website that supports liberal intellectuals in China.
The confiscated “citizen pins” may be used as evidence by the police against Wang. Caixin, a business magazine, reported in 2011 that Wang had commissioned 100 one yuan coin-sized “citizen stamps,” which featured the engraved images of the Chinese flag, an open book with the title “Constitution,” and the phrase “Chinese Citizen.”
Wang is a partner and founder of CDHfund, one of China’s biggest investment companies. He has more than ten years of venture investment experience and has made many successful investments in a variety of sectors, including Internet, media, education, energy, e-commerce, and franchise businesses. It is rare for a entrepreneur of his prominence to profess such liberal political views.
The arrest is indicative of the measures taken by the communist authorities to suppress any dissent or demand for reform. Being rich is no safeguard, according to Wang Juntao, the scholar, and no relation of Wang Gongquan: he said that the authorities are precisely concerned about entrepreneurs who have their own means of making money, independent of Party influence, and who support reform in China. They want to suppress this trend, he said.
“In China, there are two main ways to make fast money in China,” Wang Juntao said in a telephone interview. “There is real estate, where you cannot get rich without official support. Without the authorities seizing land and standing behind you, you have no way to make this money. The other way is information technology,” a means that does not rely so heavily on official power, he said.
Wang says that the Party’s message for entrepreneurs of Wang Gongquan’s ilk is simple: “You can make your money, but you don’t speak in the public realm about politics.”
With its punishment of Wang, the Party may also be attempting to prevent a repeat of the democracy protests in 1989. Then, the wealthy businessman Wan Runnan, former CEO of the Stone Group Co., the largest computer company in China in the late 1980s, financially supported the protest movement. After the massacre of students on June 4 he was expelled from the Communist Party and forced into exile.
In a speech he gave at Columbia University, Wang Gongquan described himself as “one of the very few Chinese who earns money independently.” He mentioned his dislike of getting involved with politics. Because of that, he “makes a much smaller profit” than he could with Party backing, Southern People Weekly, a liberal-leaning magazine, reported.
“I’m not a revolutionary”, Wang told the magazine on Aug. 2. “ I don’t wish for a revolution in China. Our country and nation has been damaged so harshly because of repeated violence. I only did what a citizen should do, providing constructive criticism for the sake of positive national reform. I didn’t protest, make trouble, or organize political power on the streets. I always do things without violating the law.”
A friend of Wang’s, rights activist Xu Zhiyong, was formally arrested this July on the same charge of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.” In neither case have the authorities specified what sort of crowd Wang and Xu are supposed to have assembled.
After Xu was detained, Wang and four others wrote an open letter to the authorities demanding the release of Xu and other civil rights activists. That appeal collected thousands of signatures.
With reporting by Matthew Robertson. Research by Lu Chen.
More in China Human Rights
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Jane Lin
Chinese authorities have over the last few months been in a full flight attack on what they call “rumors,” and those who propagate them, on the Internet. Rumors are a threat to social stability, Party propaganda officials say, through the multiple newspapers, websites, and television stations they control.
But what if the Chinese regime’s own mouthpieces were guilty of spreading rumors, as they accuse so many others of doing?
Xia Yeliang, an economics professor at Beijing’s prestigious Peking University, said he was prepared to put the idea to the test, in a recent post on his microblog account.
The editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a nationalistic state-run newspaper, had claimed in an editorial that Xia failed to pass a teaching evaluation last year (adding, too, that Xia’s “liberal political beliefs” were “very extremist.”)
Xia, in fact, had passed the evaluation. He said that Hu’s suggestion that he had not would qualify as “malicious rumor and slander,” and stated that a lawsuit wouldn’t be out of the question.
In particular, the Global Times editorial was forwarded more than 500 times, and viewed by more than 5,000 Internet users. This piece of arcana is important, because the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate issued a judicial interpretation recently, stipulating that people will face defamation charges if rumors they post online shared or viewed that many times.
Netizens were quick to leap to Xia’s defense, arguing that under the Party’s own new guidelines, its mouthpiece newspaper Global Times should be punished for spreading rumors.
Xia followed up with another message recruiting lawyers, who would explore ways to file a suit against Hu Xijin, pro bono.
Xia Yeliang was named one of the 100 most influential Chinese public intellectuals from 2009 to 2013, and has also recently been the center of a controversy between Peking University, the Chinese leadership, and Wellesley College, a private university in Massachusetts.
Xia’s university in China has threatened to hold a faculty vote on whether he should be ousted for his errant views on the value of democracy and the rule of law. The gesture has the clear mark of the central leadership, who are currently engaged in a campaign to snuff out the development of democratic ideas in China. In response, nearly a third of the faculty of Wellesley College said they would demand the cessation of all partnerships between Wellesley and Peking University if Xia were expelled.
Xia is not the only one being put under tremendous pressure. Since the recent crackdown on Internet rumors started, several hundred Chinese netizens have been arrested in just one week during August, according to Southern Weekend.
But netizens, like Xia, are pushing back.
One blogger’s post on club.kdnet.net, a popular online forum, went viral. The post, titled “I collected a list of Internet rumors, please punish the rumor mongers according to the law,” consisted of screenshots of state-media’s reports which were later shown to be false. One of the examples illustrated that in 2006 the Health Ministry denied that China took organs from death row inmates, but admitted in 2012 that organs from death row inmates were the major source of organs for China’s transplant industry.
Professor Xia said he was not optimistic that Hu would be brought to justice. “Although it’s unlikely to happen in China, but if the judicial interpretation was published, it should apply to everyone,” he said in an interview with New Tang Dynasty TV.
Xia returned to China on Aug. 30 after concluding his one year-term as a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He told Deutche Welle that the situation on campus in China is worsening, compared to last year. “The atmosphere is tense and it’s turning leftward. I can feel a Cultural Revolution-like atmosphere.”
He also said he is disappointed in the Chinese regime’s new leadership. “It has gotten more politically backwards. Cultural Revolution-like language and ideology is back again now,” he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale.
“In many places there are political study sessions to study Marxism,” he said. “The crackdown on so-called Internet rumors is meant to give people less room to speak and to not let people speak freely.”
But he said he is not afraid. “China is now at a critical point in history. More than ever, members of Peking University should speak up and say what people expect from intellectuals,” he told Deutche Welle.
Historically, Peking University was well known for its freedom of thought. It was the center of China’s new culture movement and many other modern political movements.
If Peking University is afraid to speak up… It will have lost its soul, and the spirit of Peking University would be dead. – Professor Xia Yeliang
“If Peking University is afraid to speak up, what kind of university will that be?” he remarked. “It will have lost its soul, and the spirit of Peking University would be dead.”
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Matthew Robertson
It is the latest attempt by the Chinese authorities to give a veneer of credibility to their organ transplant industry: new regulations. But the long anticipated rules about how organs should be procured and allocated, made public on Sept. 1, still don’t answer a few basic questions.
They do not explain, for example, whether the organs of executed prisoners will be included in the registry of organs that the authorities say they are establishing.
It was not until 2008 that Huang Jiefu, the then-Chinese vice-minister of health, acknowledged publicly and in writing that the Chinese transplant system relied heavily (to the tune of 90 percent) on organs from executed prisoners.
That was two years after reports emerged that prisoners of conscience, overwhelmingly practitioners of Falun Gong, a persecuted spiritual group, were the targets of widespread organ harvesting.
It was also nearly a decade after credible testimony was given that the Chinese system widely used death row prisoners. For many years, the Chinese authorities simply said that all organs from China came from voluntary donations, and attacked those who suggested otherwise.
Now, the authorities have admitted that they did in fact take organs from prisoners, and without consent—though they have never admitted to the harvesting of Falun Gong.
Chinese medical officials this year said that they intend to “phase out the dependency on organs from executed prisoners,” rather than promise to immediately cease the practice, as would be in line with international medical ethics.
Will executed prisoners be part of the organ registration system? It is unclear. Article II of the regulations says that it applies to all “citizens.” Do prisoners count?
The South China Morning Post quotes an unnamed surgeon saying that organs harvested from prisoners would enter the electronic allocation system. But China Daily, a state mouthpiece, says that only organs from the “general public” will be registered.
If the new system, called China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS), did include executed prisoners, it would make it a very simple matter to launder the organs of Falun Gong detainees by representing them as death row prisoners.
Organ donation registration fraud in hospitals has been reported in the Chinese media, and official institutions in China are widely seen to lack probity and credibility. The security apparatus, and the military-medical complex, in particular, which have been heavily involved in organ harvesting, are notoriously secretive.
The regulations, moreover, do not provide any real transparency to the allocation process. The idea that the source of organs can be verified is bedrock for the trust that, for example, the United States organ donation system is based on.
Verification of the source is also a condition that the World Health Organization and The Transplantation Society, both international health groups that are attempting to work with the Chinese regime on its organ transplantation system, require from countries. They have shown little appetite for challenging Chinese authorities on their practices, however.
If organs were still “harvested and allocated in secrecy,” as Arne Schwarz, an independent researcher, put it, it would mean that none of the promises made by the authorities could be tested or trusted.
Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), a medical advocacy group that typically attempts to strike a reserved tone, published a press release showing exasperation at what has become an exercise in avoidance by the Chinese regime.
China’s announcement of phasing out the harvesting of organs from prisoners is deceptive and insufficient, they titled the statement.
DAFOH’s primary problem with the regulations was similar to the issues articulated by Schwarz: no external safeguards or monitoring, and a miasma of ambiguity about whether unethically procured organs would be allowed into the new computerized system.
Failing to obtain these two items, DAFOH said, “We might need to ask ourselves, if China were successful in using a computerized organ-allocation system, whether the announcement of a phaseout is like a Trojan Horse that undermines and dilutes our ethical standards.”
Tags: CCP, censorship, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
The U.S.-based China expert He Qinglian is always interesting, but especially on the subject of China’s media. He Qinglian worked eight years as a journalist in China and has written a book about the control of media in China published in 2008 in English as “The Fog of Censorship”, as well as numerous articles on the subject of the media in China. Here are a few nuggets drawn from Ms. He’s writings.
Two key points made by Ms. He will help someone understand how to read the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) media.
First, for anything that may be considered “bad news” such as disasters, stories involving public security or public safety, or corruption, the reality is usually much worse than what is reported. The CCP’s rule is to only tell the news in a way that always makes them look good.
For example, whenever there is a disaster or major incident, the CCP strictly controls the actual situation by reducing the death toll numbers, and minimizing the damage report, in order to demonstrate that the CCP is diligently taking care of people.
Second, the news is always reported from the CCP’s viewpoint. For example, when the news is about a high number of laborers being laid off, the issue is reported as if the CCP is concerned about serious unemployment.
Or when one local leader speaks out about the farmers’ issue, the story does not focus on the local leader. Rather, the story will claim the farmers’ issue became so big that the local leader was forced to pay attention to it.
When a senior official’s corruption has been revealed, the story is about the CCP’s success in cracking down on corruption.
Even when a senior official’s corruption has been revealed, the story is about the CCP’s success in cracking down on corruption, instead of the root cause of the problem.
According to He Qinglian, the CCP’s control over media is “systematized” through laws, regulations, and statutory documents.
In controlling the media, the power of the CCP Propaganda Department surpasses that of the State Press and Publication Administration, He says.
The CCP deals with political issues as if they were non-political matters. No documents are issued; instead, communications are made through telephone calls or interior meetings. The contents of the meetings are never written, recorded, or exposed.
When it comes to media reports, He says, state-run media will not keep silent about certain issues as they did before. Rather, they will confuse the public by publishing “some lies mingled with partial facts.” This kind of propaganda mingled with partial facts is indeed more interesting than sheer lies.
The “China” constructed by the CCP-affiliated media is a far cry from the China perceived by rural or smaller-sized city dwellers, Ms. He says. The “China” exposed to the international community is purposefully shaped in the media by the communist regime.
Intelligence agencies of the CCP Public Security Bureau monitor the Internet and follow orders from some state security departments to arrest those who are charged with threatening state security for spreading damaging rumors.
With the popularity of the Internet, the CCP has developed the biggest firewalls in the world, such as the unusually costly “Golden Shield Project,” which aims to monitor public behavior.
Because the CCP uses propaganda to gain control over people’s thoughts, Chinese people have completely different concepts of universal values, like human rights, freedom, and democracy, Ms. He says.
For example, many overseas Chinese students, particularly those born after 1989, adopt skeptical attitudes toward the Western description of historical events in China, like the Korean War, the relationship between China and America, and the history of the CCP.
Translation by Rebecca Chen and Amy Lien.
More in Thinking About China
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Li Zhen, Epoch Times, Cheryl Ng, Epoch Times and Karen Tsang
HONG KONG—A campaign of anonymous phone calls made on Sept. 11 and 12 sought to discredit Epoch Times and drive off its advertisers. This phone campaign follows upon earlier, similar efforts using letters and text messages.
According to the Epoch Times sales manager, Ms. Lu Jie, on Sept. 11 and 12, clients of the Chinese-language Epoch Times received anonymous, harassing calls several times a day. Some of the calls took place at midnight or in the early morning.
The Epoch Times offices also received the same calls on the evening of Sept. 11, and calls were also made to the personal phones of Epoch Times staff. Some missed calls showed the number the call was from. When called back, the other end of the line played the tape that had been heard when similar calls had been picked up.
The tape starts by saying the call is from Epoch Times, and thanks clients for advertising with the paper. The tone then changes and, Lu said, what follows is identical to a tape that has been played for months in Hong Kong over loudspeakers by the Hong Kong Youth Care Association.
According to Hong Kong’s Next magazine, the Hong Kong Youth Care Association is a Chinese Communist Party front group that shares office space and staff with the 610 Office in Shenzhen, just across the border in mainland China. The 610 Office is an extra-legal Party organization created for the purpose of eradicating the Falun Gong spiritual practice.
Since June 2012, the Youth Care Association has besieged Falun Gong practitioners on the streets of Hong Kong, attempting to cover the Falun Gong booths with giant banners that slander the practice, while shouting at, cursing, and, at times, physically abusing the practitioners.
The tape played in this recent round of phone calls and by the Youth Care Association over their loudspeakers repeats the propaganda used by the CCP in its attempts to demonize Falun Gong.
Before this phone campaign, some clients have also received threatening letters and text messages with similar content aimed at stopping clients from buying ads from Epoch Times. The letters were signed “Hong Kong Anti-cult Alliance,” but no such organization is registered in Hong Kong.
Lu said the Youth Care Association has also hired people to steal Epoch Times newspapers from racks. She believes the phone calls, text messages, and letters are simply another tactic by the same group.
“This new move only highlights the CCP’s fear of truthful reporting and exposes its malice,” said Lu.
She said that the effect of the harassing phone calls was the opposite of what the CCP intended. “Readers, clients, and the general public have gotten in touch with Epoch Times and offered support,” Lu said. “They praise our paper for having a conscience and truthfully reporting the facts.”
“On Sept. 12 we reported these incidents to the police, and we are demanding a full investigation,” Lu said.
Interference With the Free Market
One of Epoch Times’ clients, the executive director of Goldentime Property Agency, Wong Sau-yim, is very angry with the CCP’s tactics. He said he first received text messages, then letters, then long-distance harassing calls. And he has reported these to the police.
“First of all, I am a businessman and a Buddhist.” Wong said angrily. “Epoch Times is a legal, local newspaper, and, after advertising on Epoch Times, I received calls from mainland clients, some of whom are from elite society.
“I have more business now and really enjoy the benefit from it. If you ask me not to advertise on Epoch Times, isn’t it cutting my business? Isn’t it a violent interference in the free market?”
Wong stressed that advertising is a business decision, and this kind of harassment is a violation of a person’s freedom.
When Wong reported these incidents to the police, they did not do any further investigation. They said the matter only involved a letter and should be processed as a civil case.
But Wong said this is a criminal case, because it has violated his personal freedom and the freedom of Hong Kongers. “This is not a civil matter,” Wong said. “The government should sue them!”
He urged all the merchants who have been harassed to report to the police.
Concern For Hong Kong
Woo Lai Wan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, expressed great concern.
“As a journalist or news organization, if someone counterfeits messages in someone or some company’s name, despite the content, this conduct is deceit,” Wu Lai Wan said. “If such a message has caused recipients nuisance and fear, then I believe this is likely to be a criminal intimidation. Therefore we urge the police to investigate this case right away.”
Freedom of the press is protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law, Woo Lai Wan said. Speaking directly to those responsible, she said, “Do not let yourself be involved in such illegal and dangerous actions.”
Legislative Council member Mr. Leung Yiu-chung denounced the harassment and slander in the messages directed at Epoch Times and urged police to do a thorough investigation. He also looked to Hong Kong’s leadership for the underlying causes of the incident.
He said that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (no relation to Leung Yiu-chung) has been trying to govern Hong Kong like the CCP, creating all sorts of conflicts and triggering public resentment.
“I hope such a thing will not happen again, because Hong Kong has become worse,” Leung Yiu-chung said. “Such things make people jittery and undermine their normal life which is most unfortunate and most unwanted.”
Leung Yiu Chung sees the phone calls and other messages aimed Epoch Times as raising fundamental issues for all of Hong Kong.
We must respect the freedom of speech and freedom of the press…If we lose it, Hong Kong will have only one voice and one view from autocracy. – Legislative Councilor Leung Yiu-chung
“We must respect the freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” Leung Yiu-chung said. “This is the core value of Hong Kong.
“Besides, different voices and different points of views are what the people want to hear. If we lose it, Hong Kong will have only one voice and one view from autocracy.”
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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: Nature, Science, Society
By Jack Phillips
A Bermuda Triangle 1817 tsunami that tossed ships as far away as the Delaware River near Philadelphia was triggered by an earthquake.
At the time, reports said that a “tidal wave” tossed the ships, but according to a report on Tuesday, it was actually a tsunami triggered by an earthquake.
LiveScience.com reported that the tsunami was caused by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake that hit at around 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 8, 1817. It was discovered that the quake, which was originally between a magnitude-4.8 and a magnitude-6, was actually much stronger.
U.S. Geological Survey research geophysicist Susan Hough found the source of the quake via newly found archival records.
“That was the eureka moment,” Hough told LiveScience. “Darned if that wave doesn’t hit the Delaware River and slow way down.”
Ships in the Delaware River also shook in 1858, 1877 and 1879.
“It was interesting enough to mention,” Hough told the website. “People were feeling earthquakes on ships, and earthquakes can damage early ships. Maybe this is part of the thinking that there were strange things going on in that part of the ocean.”
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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