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Archive for April, 2009

Swine Flu – what to do?

Posted by deborahmclaren on April 30, 2009

Ban Factory Farms That Are Creating and Spreading Deadly Flu

The recent swine flu outbreak has killed over 150 people and infected thousands. Send a letter to President Obama and Secretary Vilsack asking them to:

Immediately suspend the operation of factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) in the U.S. as a major threat to public health and safety.
* Initiate a criminal investigation of Smithfield Foods and other major CAFOs.
* Ban the use of antibiotics in livestock farming.


Despite years of warnings by public interest organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association and the Humane Society of the U.S., new evidence indicates drugged-out animals on intensive confinement factory farms are incubating deadly viruses that could set off a deadly epidemic.

A dangerous and rapidly spreading strain of influenza, which combines genetic material from pigs, birds and humans in a way researchers have not seen before, has killed over 150 people in Mexico, infecting thousands, and has spread to over a dozen countries, including the United States.

The World Health Organization warned early this week that the outbreak could reach global pandemic levels and raised the threat level to 4 (with 6 being the highest panedemic alert level). The last major global pandemic, the 1918 flu epidemic, killed 20-50 million people.

Despite company denials, a number of Mexican and U.S. news outlets are pointing to Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pig producer ($11 billion in annual sales), as a likely source of the deadly outbreak. Smithfield sells pork and operates massive hog-raising operations in 40 nations, including Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. For months, local residents and workers in Mexico have complained of pollution, contamination, and illnesses from the Smithfield plant. For years, Smithfield has been criticized in the United States for polluting rural communities, endangering public health, and exploiting workers and farmers.

CAFOs, such as Smithfield, feed pigs massive amounts of antibiotics, resulting in swine incubating and spreading antibiotic-resistant pathogens. These antibiotic-resistant pathogens are considered a major human health hazard by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Given these serious public health concerns, a number of health and safety organizations have called for limits or bans on the use of antibiotics in livestock farming including the American Public Health Association, American Medical Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Please take action today.

Sign Swine Flu Petition

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Earth Day

Posted by deborahmclaren on April 21, 2009

“Earth Day is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord…” (Margaret Mead, 1978)

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Street Kids in Enzo’s World – Meeting Street Kids… With Your Kids When You Travel

Posted by deborahmclaren on April 14, 2009

Have you checked out World Hum?

If not, you need to. I just read an amazing article about street kids – and one family dealing with them.  If you have traveled much you have met these kids. In our own travels we met a newborn that was swapped 24/7 by little girls begging at the Gate of India – he worked day and night begging with these tiny “mothers”; and were freaked and called police about a Down’s syndrom baby who was also horribly deformed and left naked on some stairs in Bangkok with a note “need money”. Our 13 year old daughter learned to deal with it on her own terms in India.

Anyway, this is an interesting article by JD Roberto… (according to World Hum) who is a writer, actor and host for television, and a travel junkie. Over the past 14 years, he and his wife Karen have hitched, packed, walked and tuk-tuked their way through nearly 70 countries. Their son, Enzo, has a well worn passport and budding fascination with all things cartographical.

Street Kids in Enzo’s World

Travel Stories: On a trip to Granada, Nicaragua, JD Roberto confronts hungry children and considers how to explain them to his son

04.13.09 | 9:51 AM ET
REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

It’s with no small amount of guilt that I shoo away a kid of about 8 who approaches me with a “hello, amigo.” Enzo doesn’t notice. We’re sitting on the front steps of our hotel, me poring over the map of Granada and him captivated by the horse-drawn carriages that line the central square of this well-preserved Spanish colonial town.

Street kids—whether the pint-sized kitsch hawkers at Angkor Wat, the frequently belligerent Gypsy girls outside the Louvre, or the pack of 9-year-old boys who follow you Pied Piper-style to the bakery in Hue (where you inevitably buy them a loaf of bread)—are a fixture in the life of a traveler. Almost anywhere you go, there’s a predictable culture of children working tourists on the streets.

Emotionally, it’s complicated. Sometimes you want to give them all your money. Sometimes you want to yell at them to leave. Sometimes you want to jump in the middle of them and sing “It’s the Hard Knock Life.” An appropriate response seems impossible.

Even more so once you’re traveling with your own child.

Before I can shoo him away again, the Granadan street kid is playing hide-and-seek with Enzo, who’s howling with delight at having found someone closer to his size to play with. Every now and again, this grubby 8-year-old pops up from behind a planter and yells, “Estoy aqui!” which sends my 2-year-old screaming and scampering in that direction.

The next morning, as we head for breakfast, Enzo calls out “Estoy Aqui!” at random intervals—his first words in a foreign language.

At the local waffle house, we tear through the staggering platefuls of food when the first of the street kids appears, throwing us a forlorn “You gonna eat that toast?” look. In fact, we’re not going to eat the toast, so I reach down to the street and hand it off to him. At which point the manager shouts and chases the kid away. It’s a game of cat and mouse that will play out again and again while we sit here, the manager now paying particular attention to my side of the café since I’ve proven myself to be an easy mark. Of course, the manager won’t correct or scold me. I’m a paying customer, after all. But he’ll throw me a disapproving look and keep a better eye on my side of the patio. The last thing he needs is for packs of kids to run off his clientele.

And you can’t really blame the guy. The family from Richmond sitting behind us definitely doesn’t want some skinny, unwashed child asking them for a strip of bacon. This isn’t the holiday they signed up for. People get mad when poverty is waved in their face; it’s full of messy feelings of guilt, helplessness, self-doubt and the knowledge that there but for the randomness of the birth lottery go you. And—honestly—who wants to deal with any of that over waffles and coffee?

Enzo, of course, is dealing with nothing but the conundrum of how to get the chocolate chips out of his pancakes without having to actually eat the pancake.

He isn’t old enough to ask why he has piles of food—most of which he won’t eat—and that little boy gets yelled at for having my toast. He isn’t old enough to wonder aloud why this potential hide-and-seek partner can’t come have breakfast with us. He isn’t aware enough yet to ask all the obvious questions we’ll spend the rest of the meal ignoring. And I’m relieved. Because when he does, I have no idea what I’ll say.

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