Interestingly enough some students and I were talking about Cuba the other night, and today I just so happened to come across this article in the globe and mail. It is only a small article, but after working in agriculture and beginning my studies I've become very interested in agriculture from an international view point. Anyways, that article was talking about how Cuban farmers are finally being allowed after decades "to sell their crops directly to hotels and other tourist enterprises" (article by AFP, Globe & Mail). Hopefully this will help Cuba's economy. I don't know a lot about Cuba, other then a bit of their history, that it is a communist country and that they are not allowed into the US as the Americans are not allowed in Cuba. Therefore I am hoping to do a little more research into the countries agriculture system and policies. 
There are many ways for Congress to frustrate the American people. A high-profile failure to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit, for example. But declaring pizza sauce a vegetable? That, it turns out, might work even better.

Congress passed a revised agriculture appropriations bill last week, essentially making it easier to count pizza sauce as a serving of vegetables. The move has drawn widespread outrage from consumer advocates and pundits, who see “pizza is a vegetable.” as outlandish.

There’s just one little misperception: Congress didn’t declare pizza to be a vegetable. And, from a strictly nutritional standpoint, there’s decent evidence that lawmakers didn’t exactly bungle this decision.

Let’s revisit the facts: Despite what one might expect from the headlines, if you scour theagriculture appropriations bill, referenced in numerous stories, you won’t find a single mention of the word “pizza,” or even “vegetable,” for that matter.

This is not a fight over pizza. It is, instead, a fight about tomato paste. Specifically, it’s a fight about how much of the product counts as one serving of vegetables.

Right now, tomato paste gets a sort of special treatment under school lunch regulations. Just “an eighth of a cup of tomato paste is credited with as much nutritional value as half a cup of vegetables,” my colleague Dina ElBoghdady explained last week.

The Obama administration guidelines, outlined in January, would have nixed tomato paste’s extra credit, counting a half cup as a half cup. “Under this proposal, schools would credit tomato paste and puree based on actual volume as served,” the regulation, published in the Federal Register on Jan. 13, 2011, explains. “Schools would not be allowed to credit a volume of fruits or vegetables that is more than the actual serving size.”

What happened this week was that Congress blocked that change: Tomato paste will continue to get outsized credit, with one-eighth of a cup essentially counted as something four times larger.

This makes it easier, and cheaper, for pizza manufacturers to produce a product that includes a serving of vegetables. But, as my colleagues over at The Checkup emphasize, itby no means declares the pizza itself a vegetable. Schools lunches are still measured byfederal regulations for calories (no more than one-third of daily recommended value) and fat content (less than 30 percent of the meal), which limits how much pizza students can be served. A cafeteria worker can’t just pile a slice of pizza on a plate and say she’s serving salad.

Back to the tomato paste controversy: Should a smaller serving of tomato paste have equal footing with a half-cup of other fruits and vegetables?

If you stack one-eighth of a cup of tomato paste up against a half-cup of some pretty common fruits and vegetables, the paste actually doesn’t do so badly. Here are nutrition facts for one-eighth of a cup of tomato paste (left) versus a half a cup of apples (right):

All told, the nutrition facts look really similar. Tomato paste does do a lot worse on sodium, but it also does much better in terms of calcium and potassium content. It also slightly edges out apples on dietary fiber, with a lower amount of sugar.

I tested out a few other comparisons, and they came out relatively close. You can see the results below.

Measuring fruit and vegetable servings by volume is a bit of an odd convention in the first place. When it comes to calories and nutrients, they’re really all over the map. A half-cup of avocado is quite nutritionally different from a half-cup of zucchini.

As for the half-cup of tomato paste at the center of this debate, it would no doubt have had more nutrients than an eighth-cup. Advocacy groups were disappointed to see the regulatory change blocked. More tomato paste would mean more pizza sauce, would mean more potassium and fiber. But the smaller serving, in strictly nutritional terms, looks a whole lot like the larger serving of some of the most common fruits and vegetables we consume.

Moreover, it’s far from clear how much this decision matters for what students actually eat. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture writes guidelines for what school meals should look like, few schools actually follow them. Just 20 percent of schools served meals that met federal guidelines for fat content, according to a 2007 USDA audit

Thursday, November 3rd 2011

I really enjoyed reading the “Evaluating Literature” article; it was one of the best ones I have read so far. I think that it really raised some good questions and thoughts to how Christians should interpret things; to help us think about what we are reading and if it is going to be hurtful to us. Its funny Christians think porn is bad, and I agree, I think it is disgusting and very degrading to women and men. However, what about all these magazines on the newsstands that are within arms reach everywhere? These are acceptable. Are they not full of fake images of beauty? Pornography to ones body image, emotions and raping our soul. However, its ok to read this crap… hummm… it seems to be its more accepted because it is presented in a more moral way. But its ok, its moral of us to tell society that you need to lose 15lbs in order to live a better live and be happy, exercise and diet to look good and be happy, give us tips on better sex, what we should wear, smell like, yet where is God in all this? We let media become our idol! We rather know what Angelia Jolie is doing then about the starving kids and Africa. We focus on all the things we want instead of what it is we already have and need. Sometimes I wonder if morals even exist within our societies anymore. 

Nicole Leger

Jamaican dairy farmers are throwing away milk that they are unable to sell - thanks to a market flooded with cheap imports from Europe

"Dairy farmers are crying out for help. But we cannot offer them a market while processors have a choice of cheap imports. This is our opportunity to say to Europe: 'Export subsidies are killing the developing countries. Jamaican farmers are pleading with you.'"

- Fiona Black, Dairy Herd Services, Jamaica

Before the early 1990s, the Jamaican dairy industry was healthy, and growing. But when the Jamaican government opened up the dairy market to imports - in response to pressure from the World Bank - that changed overnight. Shiploads of cheap milk powder from Europe, produced and exported with the aid of massive EU subsidies, spelt disaster for Jamaica's dairy farmers.

Jamaican dairy processors - including the multinational, Nestlé - have turned their backs on the local dairy industry, preferring to use the cheaper, imported powder.

In spite of their efforts over the past ten years, Jamaican dairy farmers are losing the battle against subsidised imports. Less than one-fifth of what the country consumes is now provided by the local industry.

The effects on dairy farmers - many of whom are women running their own small businesses - are disastrous. They are literally throwing away thousands of litres of milk from overflowing coolers. Many are leaving the industry that has supported their families for generations.

Rich countries pressure poor countries to open up their markets - and then dump subsidised goods on them, wreaking havoc on local industries. At the same time, rich countries fiercely protect their own markets from poor countries' exports.
The US fast food industry has been implementing it's fat and greasy foods all over the Earth in order to make billions. The overseas fast food industry is booming and there seems to be no end in sight. This gives the world jobs, but what is it doing to effect different cultures and what is it doing to the health of those people. McDonald's has even coined a phrase, 'Global Realization', for their need to conquer the fast food markets over seas, they want to be number one. Number one at killing people with heart disease and diabetes?

According to Schlosser, McWorld is a "homogenized international culture", a term coined by sociologist Benjamin J. Barber (2002). Fast food companies like McDonald's are spreading their unhealthy, fattening foods across the globe, opening many new restaurants on a daily basis. The novelty of these restaurants in different countries is what brings in the innocent and corrupts their culture and their arteries. America may currently be the fattest nation, but who's next with fast food continuously booming? And the fact that the restaurants serve just the American foods they serve here without catering to the other cultures seems absurd.

The impact of the fast food explosion on foreign food markets is both good and bad. The benefits are that the restaurants bring many jobs, which means more money for the communities in which they run. This is good for the economy and the people. But the negative effects are more long standing. People that eat this food will become unhealthy, introduced to genetically modified foods, stuffed with fat and much too many calories. Fast food is convenience food and normally when something is "faster" it isn't as healthy. Even the "healthy" foods offered by most fast food restaurants are filled with preservatives and pesticides, which defeats their good properties.

Would it be better to stop this madness, or is the money worth more than the people are. Only the fast food industries and the nations leaders can answer that question. Well, and the people can choose to pass on fast food and eat healthy too.


Schlosser, E. (2002). Fast Food Nation. Harper Perennial. staff and news service reportsupdated 11/7/2011 5:26:11 AM ET
NEW YORK — It can be a malicious rumor whispered in the hallway, a lewd photo arriving by cell phone, hands groping where they shouldn't. Added up, it's an epidemic — student-on-student sexual harassment that is pervasive in America's middle schools and high schools.

During the 2010-11 school year, 48 percent of students in grades 7-12 experienced some form of sexual harassment in person or electronically via texting, email and social media, according to a major national survey being released Monday by the American Association of University Women.

The harassers often thought they were being funny, but the consequences for their targets can be wrenching, according to the survey.

Nearly a third of the victims said the harassment made them feel sick to their stomach, affected their study habits or fueled reluctance to go to school at all.

"It's reached a level where it's almost a normal part of the school day," said one of the report's co-authors, AAUW director of research Catherine Hill. "It's somewhat of a vicious cycle. The kids who are harassers often have been harassed themselves."

The survey, conducted in May and June, asked 1,002 girls and 963 boys from public and private schools nationwide whether they had experienced any of various forms of sexual harassment.

Called a whore 
These included having someone make unwelcome sexual comments about them, being called gay or lesbian in a negative way, being touched in an unwelcome sexual way, being shown sexual pictures they didn't want to see, and being the subject of unwelcome sexual rumors.

The survey quoted one ninth-grade girl as saying she was called a whore "because I have many friends that are boys."

A 12th-grade boy said schoolmates circulated an image showing his face attached to an animal having sex.

"I was sent a website to look up and I did and it was to a porn site. It was very upsetting to me," a 7th-grade girl said, according to the report.

Advertise | AdChoicesA 9th-grade boy said being called gay by other students made him "feel bad and I tried to get away anyway I could. I felt threatened for my personal safety."

Being touched in an unwelcome, sexual way made a 10th-grade girl "feel sad and very scared."

"An 8th-grade guy passed by me and said, really softly, 'What's up, sexy?' and then kept on walking. It really creeped me out," a 7th-grade girl told the authors of the report.

In all, 56 percent of the girls and 40 percent of the boys said they had experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment during the school year.

After being harassed, half of the targeted students did nothing about it. Of the rest, some talked to parents or friends, but only 9 percent reported the incident to a teacher, guidance counselor or other adult at school, according to the survey.

Some 44 percent of students who admitted to sexually harassing others did not think it was a big deal; 39 percent were trying to be funny, the report said.

Reasons for not reporting included doubts it would have any impact, fears of making the situation worse, and concerns about the staff member's reaction.

The report comes at a time when the problem of bullying at schools is in the spotlight, in part because of several recent suicides of beleaguered students.

The AAUW report observes that sexual harassment and bullying can sometimes overlap, such as the taunting of youths who are perceived to be gay or lesbian, but it says there are important distinctions.

Downplayed, ignored 
For example, there are some state laws against bullying, but serious sexual harassment — at a level which interferes with a student's education — is prohibited under the federal gender-equality legislation known as Title IX.

"Too often, the more comfortable term bullying is used to describe sexual harassment, obscuring the role of gender and sex in these incidents," the report says. "Schools are likely to promote bullying prevention while ignoring or downplaying sexual harassment."

Advertise | AdChoicesFatima Goss Graves, a vice-president of the National Women's Law Center in Washington, said the ultimate goal should be to deter hurtful student interactions however they are defined.

"Schools get too caught up in the label," she said. "If it's the sort of conduct that's interfering with a student's performance, it ought to be stopped."

The survey asked students for suggestions on how to reduce sexual harassment at their schools. More than half favored systematic punishments for harassers and said there should be a mechanism for reporting harassment anonymously.

The AAUW report said all schools should create a sexual-harassment policy and make sure it is publicized and enforced.

It said schools must ensure that students are educated about what their rights are under Title IX, with special attention paid to encouraging girls to respond assertively to harassment since they are targeted more often than boys.

Expert: Cultural changes needed 
Niobe Way, a professor of applied psychology at New York University who has studied adolescent relationships, suggested that school anti-harassment policies might have only limited impact without broader cultural changes that break down gender stereotypes.

"You have a culture that doesn't value boys having close intimate relations and being emotional or empathetic," she said.

Bill Bond, a former high school principal who is a school safety expert for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said there had been in shift in the nature of sexual harassment among students over recent decades.

Overt attempts to exploit a fellow student sexually have become less common, while there's more use of sexual remarks to degrade or insult someone, he said.

"Words can cut a kid all the way to the heart," Bond said. "And when it's on the computers and cell phones, there's no escape. It's absolutely devastating and vicious to a kid."

The survey was conducted for AAUW by Knowledge Networks, and students answered the questions online, rather than to a person, to maximize the chances that they would answer sensitive questions candidly. Households were provided with equipment and Internet access if needed.

The AAUW said the margin of error for the full sample of the survey was plus or minus 2.2 percent, with a larger margin of error for subgroups.

By Allison Linn

More Americans are living in difficult circumstances than the official data show, according to a new and sobering gauge of poverty.

The new indicator, called the Supplemental Poverty Measure, estimates that 49.1 million were grappling with very difficult economic circumstances in 2010, compared with 46.6 million under the standard poverty definition. The poverty rate under the supplemental measure is 16 percent, compared with 15.2 percent under the official measure.

The calculations for the official measure are slightly different than in the poverty report released earlier this year because the researchers used slightly different demographics.

The supplemental measure was developed in response to critics who said that the traditional measure of poverty is too simplistic. They argue that it doesn’t take into account benefits, such as food stamps, or expenses, such as health care costs, that are key parts of low-income people’s budgets.

“I think that we’re going to have a much more accurate understanding of poverty in America,” Scott Allard, an associate professor at the University of Chicago and expert on poverty, said ahead of the report’s release.

The supplemental calculation is not going to replace the official poverty measure, which Allard and others say also is valuable because it provides a consistent comparison of poverty over time.

But the new calculation does offer a more detailed view of how poor people are getting by. It includes government benefits that aim to help low-income Americans, including subsidized school lunch programs, energy assistance programs, housing subsidies and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps.

And it tries to more accurately reflect what people are paying out in expenses such as health care and payroll taxes.

“It does address some shortcomings,” said Shawn Fremstad, a senior research associate with the Center for Economic and Policy Research and an expert on poverty. “I think it has other shortcomings.”

Fremstad likes that the new measurement more accurately reflects both expenses and benefits that affect low-income families.

But he also thinks the new poverty measure still underestimates how much money you really need to make ends meet today. He noted that under the new guidelines the poverty threshold for a family of four with two children is $24,343, although there are some variations for housing status. That compares to $22,113 under the traditional guidelines.

Danny Wilcox Frazier for

Conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation are comparable to the most impoverished nations in the world. Two out of three people on the reservation live below the federal poverty line, and the unemployment rate hovers between eighty-five and ninety percent. Life expectancy is 48 years for men and 52 for women. Faced with staggering poverty, the Lakota work to preserve tradition, culture, and maintain their community. To see more images from one of the most impoverished areas in America, click on the 'images' link below.

Fremstad thinks the new threshold is still very low.

Under the supplemental measure, the poverty rate for children is actually lower than under the traditional measure. Some see that as a validation that programs that aim to help poor children, such as food subsidies, actually do work.

advertisement“These data will highlight how critical many safety net programs are for low-income families and how they elevate people out of poverty,” Allard said in an interview before the data was released.

On the other hand, the supplemental measure shows a higher poverty rate for older Americans. That could be because of expenses the new measure includes, particularly out-of-pocket health care costs.

The supplemental poverty measure also includes other factors, such as regional housing cost differences.

The criticisms of the traditional poverty measure have come from both sides of the ideological fence.

Some conservatives have argued that the standard poverty measure looks too narrowly at income, and doesn’t take into account things like alternative source of wealth, savings or people with unpredictable salary swings.

Some liberals say the decades-old formula underestimates the true cost of making ends meet today. news servicesupdated 11/5/2011 6:48:22 PM ET

WASHINGTON — The jobs crisis has left so many people out of work for so long that most of America's unemployed are no longer receiving unemployment benefits.

Early last year, 75 percent were receiving checks. The figure is now 48 percent — a shift that points to a growing crisis of long-term unemployment. Nearly one-third of America's 14 million unemployed have had no job for a year or more.

Congress is expected to decide by year's end whether to continue providing emergency unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks in the hardest-hit states. If the emergency benefits expire, the proportion of the unemployed receiving aid would fall further.

October jobs report hints at improvement:

The ranks of the poor would also rise. The Census Bureau says unemployment benefits kept 3.2 million people from slipping into poverty last year. It defines poverty as annual income below $22,314 for a family of four.

Yet for a growing share of the unemployed, a vote in Congress to extend the benefits to 99 weeks is irrelevant. They've had no job for more than 99 weeks. They're no longer eligible for benefits.

Their options include food stamps or other social programs. Nearly 46 million people received food stamps in August, a record total. That figure could grow as more people lose unemployment benefits.

So could the government's disability rolls. Applications for the disability insurance program have jumped about 50 percent since 2007.

"There's going to be increased hardship," said Wayne Vroman, an economist at the Urban Institute.

The number of unemployed has been roughly stable this year. Yet the number receiving benefits has plunged 30 percent.

Government unemployment benefits weren't designed to sustain people for long stretches without work. They usually don't have to. In the recoveries from the previous three recessions, the longest average duration of unemployment was 21 weeks, in July 1983.

Advertise | AdChoicesBy contrast, in the wake of the Great Recession, the figure reached 41 weeks in September. That's the longest on records dating to 1948. The figure is now 39 weeks.

"It was a good safety net for a shorter recession," said Carl Van Horn, an economist at Rutgers University. It assumes "the economy will experience short interruptions and then go back to normal."

Weekly unemployment checks average about $300 nationwide. If the extended benefits aren't renewed, growth could slow by up to a half-percentage point next year, economists say.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that each $1 spent on unemployment benefits generates up to $1.90 in economic growth. The CBO has found that the program is the most effective government policy for increasing growth among 11 options it's analyzed.

Joe Skipper  /  REUTERSJob candidates receive information as they enter a Jobs Fair in Miami.Jon Polis lives in East Greenwich, R.I., one of the 20 states where 99 weeks of benefits are available. He used them all up after losing his job as a warehouse worker in 2008. His benefits paid for groceries, car maintenanceand health insurance.

Now, Polis, 55, receives disability insurance payments, food stamps and lives in government-subsidized housing. He's been unable to find work because employers in his field want computer skills he doesn't have.

"Employers are crying that they can't find qualified help," he said. But the ones he interviewed with "weren't willing to train anybody."

From late 2007, when the recession began, to early 2010, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose more than four-fold, to 11.5 million.

Using up benefits 
But the economy has remained so weak that an analysis of long-term unemployment data suggests that about 2 million people have used up 99 weeks of checks and still can't find work.

"Hiring is not booming, but I don't think there is any sign of recession. The risk of the economy falling into a second recession over the next six to 12 months has been reduced, but we still have a very long way to go," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester Pennsylvania.

Contributing to the smaller share of the unemployed who are receiving benefits: Some of them are college graduates or others seeking jobs for the first time. They aren't eligible. Only those who have lost a job through no fault of their own qualify.

Advertise | AdChoicesThe proportion of the unemployed receiving benefits usually falls below 50 percent during an economic recovery. Many have either quit jobs or are new to the job market and don't qualify.

Today, the proportion is falling for a very different reason: Jobs remain scarce. So more of the unemployed are exhausting their benefits.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has noted that the long-term unemployed increasingly find it hard to find work as their skills and professional networks erode. In a speech last month, Bernanke called long-term unemployment a "national crisis" that should be a top priority for Congress.

Lawmakers will have to decide whether to continue the extended benefits by the end of this year. If the program ends, nearly 2.2 million people will be cut off by February.

Congress has extended the program nine times. But it might balk at the $45 billion cost. It will be the first time the Republican-led House will vote on the issue.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian authorities plan to ban a book about sex published by a group of Muslim women who call themselves the Obedient Wives Club and advocate subservience to husbands, an official said Thursday.

The Malay-language book titled "Islamic Sex" is not available at stores but is believed to have been read by hundreds of members of the club formed this year by a small Malaysian Islamic sect that practices polygamy.

The book contains no explicit photographs but was written by the club's 56-year-old founder to describe her experiences and opinions on marriage. It has passages on how couples should physically and spiritually approach sex, claiming that most women only satisfy 10 percent of their husbands' sexual needs.

The government's Islamic affairs department studied the 115-page book and recommended banning it because it could cause confusion among Malaysia's Muslim majority about acceptable religious teachings, a Home Ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements.

Authorities have not decided when to formally ban the book, but people caught in possession of it could be fined up to 5,000 ringgit ($1,600), the official said. Anyone who makes copies of it for sale can be imprisoned for three years and fined 20,000 ringgit ($6,400).

Representatives of the Obedient Wives Club did not immediately answer calls to them Thursday.

Club leaders showed the book to journalists last month in an attempt to dispel what they called misconceptions that it was obscene and demeaning for women. They said the book was intended to be a spiritual guide read exclusively by club members to help them comprehend sex better.

Many Malaysians have denounced the club, saying it makes a mockery of modern gender roles in a country where women hold prominent posts in the government and private sector.

Club leaders have said a wife should serve as a "good sex worker" and a "whore" to her husband.

The Obedient Wives Club is believed to have at least 800 members in Malaysia and has established branches abroad in Indonesia, Singapore, Jordan and Britain. Many club members are in polygamous marriages, insisting the practice helps husbands to avoid committing adultery. Islam allows men to take up to four wives.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.