Friday Evening News Reads: Murphy NC Tornado Damage, Pink Slime, Spiders and Snakes

Good Evening…

Tonight, for your viewing pleasure, I have videos and images full of destruction…disgust…terror…dated perceptions and bad romance.  Those being a collection of tornado damage, pink slime, wolf spiders, early 70’s Dolly Parton and a song about Women’s Suffrage.

First, we have the debris and destruction part of this evening’s post. I went to Murphy, North Carolina today and shot some video of the damage the town received after being hit by a F2 tornado on March 3, 2012. This town is just a spit from my old house near the border of Georgia and North Carolina. The town may sound familiar to you because it was made famous by Olympic Park and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolf...who hid out in the mountains around the town for six years, before being discovered rummaging through a trash dumpster.

My video is short so take a look:

Earlier today, a local Atlanta station had a crew shoot a story about the tornado that hit last week,  a lot of the same things I video taped are in their report…which does explain what you are looking at and interviews some residents and owners of the damaged buildings.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Transcript of the news video here:

– Residents in Murphy, N.C. are still picking up the pieces after a tornado touched down last Friday.

The twister destroyed homes and businesses throughout the town.

Wayne’s Feed Store, a somewhat local institution in the mountain town since 1951, was blown away.

Reggie Cox lost his house, but said he was grateful that his family — including his three children– are safe.

“It was scary, you know winds, debris,” said Cox.

The EF-2 tornado tore through town with winds of up to 125 miles an hour — fast enough to drive a four by four post through the side of a station wagon.

“We had over 100 homes that suffered some type of damage. We had eight that were destroyed,’ said Cherokee County, N.C. spokesman Doug Clement.

Cox’s uncle’s house was one of the those totaled, where a week later a smoke detector was still sounding the alarm.

“They just left about five to seven minutes before it hit,” said Cox. “I don’t think anybody could have survived it.”

Rebuilding has begun, bringing with it a sense of recovery.

“We feel like we are on the road to recovery. Mountain people are survivors. Well indeed make it, I indeed assure you of that,” said Mayor Bill Hughes.

While the storm caused millions of dollars in damage, there were no reports of injuries.

The same storm system did damage in Haralson and Paulding Counties

Now… I bring you the disgusting portion of the evening. I have another video for you to watch, it is from a segment of ABC News last night, and it is revolting!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Is Pink Slime in the Beef at Your Grocery Store? – ABC News

As seen in the movie Food Inc., the low-grade trimmings come from the most contaminated parts of the cow and were once only used in dog food and cooking oil. But because of BPI’s treatment of the trimmings — simmering them in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge and spraying them with ammonia gas to kill germs — the United States Department of Agriculture says it’s safe to eat.

The company calls the final product “Finely Textured Lean Beef.” It is flash frozen and boxed. Foshee says it is more like gelatin and not nutritious as ground beef because the protein comes mostly from connective tissue, not muscle meat.

“[It will] fill you up, but won’t do any good,” Foshee said.

ABC News was flooded with questions from concerned viewers following last night’s report on pink slime.

Many, like Dale Rittenhouse, wanted to know where beef with pink slime was sold.

“What stores use pink slime?” Rittenhouse wrote.

So ABC News producers traveled across the country to the meat section to see if its in the ground beef they sell. Most couldn’t tell us for sure.

“There is no way to even know from labels or even from the butchers here whether it contains pink slime,” said ABC News producer Candace Smith in New York.

“The guy at the meat counter said that he had been getting the same question all day,” said Janice McDonald in Atlanta.

ABC News emailed the top 10 grocery chains in America. Only Publix, Costco, HEB and Whole Foods responded, saying they don’t use pink slime. No word yet from the rest.

Geez, we don’t have any of those pink slime free grocery stores in Banjoville…ABC has an update on Where You Can Get ‘Pink-Slime’-Free Beef

At most stores it was impossible to tell for sure whether the beef contained pink slime. At one store there was no way to know from the labels and the butchers did not know the answer.

ABC News emailed the top 10 grocery chains in America and seven responded:

1. Safeway
“We rely on the federal government to help guide us on food safety issues. USDA has been clear in its judgment that Lean Finely Textured Ground Beef is a safe source of nutrition. However, we are reviewing the matter at this time.”

2. Ahold (Stop & Shop/Giant)
“Stores operated by the divisions of Ahold USA do carry ground beef made with Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT), also called Finely Textured Beef (FTB). Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT) is beef and is absolutely safe for consumption. To make the product, beef companies use beef trimmings, which are the small cuts of beef that remain when larger cuts are trimmed down. These trimmings are USDA-inspected, wholesome cuts of beef. This process has been an industry standard for almost 20 years. Alternatives to the conventional ground beef supply, in the form of Certified Angus Beef and Nature’s Promise ground beef products, are available to customers in stores across all of the divisions of Ahold USA. These products do not include the use of BLBT. Customers are being encouraged to ask any meat associate should they have any questions or would like to be directed to meat that does not include Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings. Our labeling is in compliance with USDA regulations. BLBT is USDA tested and approved ground beef and therefore does not require labeling.”

3. Costco
Does not use pink slime.
“Anything that we sell at Costco we want to explain it’s origins, and I personally don’t know how to explain trim treated with ammonia in our ground beef,” Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance for Costco, told ABC News. “I just don’t know how to explain that. I’m not that smart.”

4. Publix
“We have never allowed the use of LFTB (pink slime) in our meat. It’s 100 percent ground beef with no LFTB.”

5. H-E-B
“All our ground beef sold at H-E-B is 100% pure with no additives.”

6. Whole Foods
Does not use pink slime.

7. Kroger
“We do not use finely textured beef in our fresh ground beef. … We are routinely presented the finely textured beef as an option, but have always refused.”

A viewer, Miles Herbert, wanted to know, “Is there any evidence that organic meat contains this pink slim?”

It turns out there isn’t. If your meat is stamped USDA Organic, it’s pure meat with no filler.

There is a petition at  Health Petition: Tell USDA to STOP Using Pink Slime in School Food! …according to an article in the LA Times, Pink slime: In the supermarket and school lunches

Texas mom Bettina Siegel has a petition going at to get the additive out of school lunches.


Meanwhile, over at the Cattle Network, American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle  defended the process as well as the product in an article Thursday, saying the “lean beef trimmings” were “absolutely edible” and that using them ensured that “lean, nutritious, safe beef” did not go to waste.

Boyle goes on to say that media reports create an inaccurate picture.  An opinion piece on the site refers to “pink slime” as a “headline writer’s dream.”

It would indeed seem great fodder for a snarky British tabloid headline, considering that in the United Kingdom lean beef trimmings are banned for human consumption.

Damn, so the UK has banned this “stuff” for human consumption…funny, they banned the TSA’s nude screening cancer x-rays as well…I guess their government officials do not have “connections” to lobbyist that promote the TSA scanners, or get paid over a million dollars by the company that makes that pink slime, like  the under-secretary who approved of this ghastly crap. Yeah, check out what she actually said in regards to what makes this “filler” meat:

“The under secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.

ABC News has learned the woman who made the decision to OK the mix is a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith. It was a call that led to hundred of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.

When Smith stepped down from the USDA in 1993, BPI’s principal major supplier appointed her to its board of directors, where she made at least $1.2 million over 17 years.

Smith did not return ABC News’ calls for comment and BPI said it had nothing to do with her appointment. The USDA said while her appointment was legal at the time, under current ethics rules Smith could not have immediately joined the board.

Alrighty then, I got some terror for you this evening as well. Do you all remember those floods in Australia last year? Thousands of spiders blanket Australian farm after escaping flood Take a look at some creepy photographs of the wolf spider.

What appears to be snow is actually spider webs blanketing an Australian farm. (Daniel Munoz/Reuters)

Thousands of normally solitary wolf spiders have blanketed an Australian farm after fleeing a rising flood.

Reuters reports that the flooding has forced more than 8,000 Australian (human) residents from their homes in the city of Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. But for every temporarily displaced person, it appears several spiders have moved in to fill the void.

“What we’ve seen here is a type of wolf spider,” Owen Seeman, an arachnid expert at Queensland Museum, told Reuters. “They are trying to hide away (from the waters).”

The Australian Museum’s entomology collections manager Graham Milledge told Reuters that there’s even a term for the phenomenon, “ballooning,” and that it is typical behavior for spiders forced to escape rising waters.

Click image for more photos

I don’t like spiders or snakes…you fool, you fool…
Y’all know that tune?
I remember listening to this song when I was a kid, the video is from 1974…it is very annoying, but check out Dolly Parton…no big hair and no high heels. Oh yeah, this is the part I described up top as “dated perceptions.” It is really more like obnoxious stereo-types but you will get my meaning when you watch it.
The video does present a nice contrast to the last video I have for you tonight, which rounds out our “Bad Romance…”
Hope you enjoyed that wild ride, I will catch y’all in the comments later tonight. There is a strawberry shortcake with my name all over it in the kitchen…and it is calling me. (Well, it is either that or I really am going off the deep end.)

Monday Afternoon, Sky Dancing in the Garden

I was thinking about writing a gardening and food post, then Kat mentioned gardening in the Monday Reads and so I ran with it.

Up here in the northern-westernest part of the lower 48 La Nina has been mighty boring. I’m grateful for this, but sorry that her pattern of weather moved south and blasted the rest of the country with such misery. We’ve had normal temps and less rain that usual, although that is changing. This means my partner and I have been out working on the farm. He got the parts of the field we need later this month and next tilled and ready for planting. I’ve been working on conquering the weeds in the herb garden.

A plain and simple rose, in Sima's garden

Weeds (northeastern, northwestern, california, midwest and south): the bane of life with organic gardening, little tiny buggers that grow from the very air it seems, seeds stored for 20 years or more in buried earth just waiting for a bit of sun and light, little bothersome indicators of both soil gone wrong and soil gone right, rotten, overpowering… bleh. Weeds. Since our farm started as a cow pasture and hay field, our worst weeds are grasses, particularly what we call ‘zip’ grass, because of the sound it makes when you rip it out by the roots and discover to your horror the roots run right under the 3 feet of weed matted and graveled pathway and out the other side. Ziiiipppp indeed. One little stem of that stuff and it’ll grow another 4 foot long run of root, little grasslets sprouting all along the way.

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Gambling with Hunger

During the wind down of the financial crisis several years ago, a few people that read my more wonky threads asked me where I thought the next speculative bubble would develop.  I answered food more from intuition than any hard core evidence that I had at the time.  Now there is plenty of hard core evidence that validates my intuition.

Farm land and Ag. prices have been fairly stable since the 80s and represented some of the few markets that proved relatively resistant to the Global Financial Crisis.  However, there was a period of time–2007 through 2008– when some speculative practices influenced food markets.  That is why I thought it was likely to recur.   Food is, of course, a necessity so that always gives a market a degree of persistence during downturns. It does not make it safe from speculation.  The deal is that speculators made a lot of money from their counterbets to the mortgage bubbles and that money had to go some where.  I thought it likely they would head for the commodities markets since they did that before with oil, cooper, and food.  Since these investors are by nature speculators, they have similar investment behaviors and profiles.  The movement of a large number of large dollar investors from one specific clientele into any market is going to have an impact.  Speculators moved to commodities and they moved on food. You could see the momentum build and you could trace momentum riders as they entered the market.

Before I get started on the main thrust of this post, I’d like to mention that I know a lot about Shari’a compliant finance and banking because my major professor is one of its leading authorities.  Because this discussion is going to include countries where Islam is a major religion, I would like to say a few things about how Shari’a is applied to stock markets, banks, and ‘financial engineering’ in countries where populations may be pushing for these kinds of laws.  I’d also like to say that Islamic economists share my concerns even though those concerns are rooted in different philosophies.

It is important to point out that Islamic banks and investment funds were found to be resistant to the global recession compared to their conventional counterparts.  This is because gambling and speculation is outlawed in Islamic texts and therefor not allowed in Shari’a compliant institutions.  The current U.S. and European corporate form is problematic under Shari’a.   The Qu’ran is very specific about the nature of doing business.  Most of this is based on the old testament prohibition against usury but the haddith and Q’uran go further.  However, the shared old testament roots makes a lot of Islamic financial institutions similar to the ones you find in New York  with special banks run by the Orthodox Jewish communities there. We already have religious financial institutions that follow Old Testament prescriptions. I’ve had Jewish students from Orthodox congregations provide me similar information that’s rooted in the Talmud. (Yes, I’m an atheist which makes me extra suspicious of  any religious text.)

The Qur’an also promotes shared partnership/ownership and responsibility within a business as a moral imperative between all owners of that business.  It does not promote any governmental ownership.  It is considered immoral to operate a business with a never-ending, always changing ownership pool like that present in the business form of  a public corporation. Preferred stock is strictly prohibited.  All owners must have a shared responsibility for the business.  That includes the concept of ‘negative’ profits and any negative results.  If the business does something immoral or wrong, all of the owners and decisions makers owe the societal retribution and share in the shame and negative profits. No one owner can walk away from illegal activities.

Contracts that are compliant to the Shari’a are written clearly and monitored against gharar (disception) so that gambling and speculation cannot occur and so that any thing bad the business does comes back on all the owners/investors in a business.  They all hang or thrive together over long periods of time.   That is because a business and trade are supposed to bring good results for the entire community. It’s like the idea of karma.  If you do good, every thing thrives.  If you do harm, the poison spreads and you are held to account.  The contracts are enforceable in courts.  In this case, an Islamic jurist and an angry sky god will hold you to account.  You’ve undoubtedly read exactly how old testament angry that punishment can be be in the version of Shari’a practiced by the extreme Shia Islam of Iran.  Fortunately, most adherents to Islam–like the majority of adherents to Christianity and Judaism–do not adhere to literal interpretations of Old Testament prohibitions and punishments.  They hold to the underlying moral view and practices.

Shari’a compliance means no corporate form like we use here with its limited liability financiers and assumed perpetuity. This is probably why you’ve got so many people calling Islam ‘anti-capitalist’ now.  It’s not anti-capitalist at all.  In fact, it exhorts people to share and run businesses as a moral activity.  It’s the speculation and the ability to walk away from liability that is prohibited.  It is not about government takeover of private property.  It is about holding private property owners to account for the damage they may do to society and preventing that when possible.  Of course, the plutocracy hates this.

I want to explain what this means because it’s not a Marxist form or a planned market form like you saw in the Soviet Union.  This is not a ‘communist under the bed’ situation.  Derivatives and financial engineering are being vigorously discussed by Islamic economists and financiers right now.  They are separating out the forbidden, speculative activities.  This means that many hedge funds would not be able to get into projects where the owners follow Shari’a because speculation is strictly prohibited.  All investments must be matched to “real” assets. Assets cannot be created out of thin air.  So, in this situation, forward contracts or futures contracts are allowed.  Some of the synthetic deals that characterized the pre-crisis time cannot be used by firms providing investment fund opportunities to people concerned their monies be placed in Shari’a compliant ways.  Additionally, the Q’uran has a strict prohibition on hording money.  The rich must keep their funds active in the economy to please God.  Another edict is that all activities must put aside a portion for charitable activities that support widows and orphans.  I hope this gives you enough understand to place this next discussion in context and why some people may find this appealing.

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So, maybe you can understand why gambling with food assets is a big concern on many levels for developing nations.  First, you have an incredible amount  of hungry people.  There are tales of hungry people in Africa watching boats be loaded with food they grew being shipped to rich, developed countries.  Then, you have a number of regions where gambling is basically seen as doing harm to people and is prohibited by God.  I would like to remind you that most fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jewish Congregations believe this too.  It’s clearly part of the old testament prohibitions.  So, modern finance is running headlong into development economics as well as people with literal old testament-based religions.  Again, Orthodox Jewish congregants have a separate banking system in New York that would be considered Shari’a compliant.  I cannot emphasize this enough.

So with this in mind, there is increasing evidence that ‘Rampant Speculation Inflated Food Price Bubble”. You can see what excessive speculation is now doing to food markets.

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Follow-up: GM Alfalfa

I wrote about GM Alfalfa several days ago, and wanted to post a short followup.

First, do we really need GM Alfalfa? Probably not. It’s not like Alfalfa is riddled with a weed problem in this country. Michael Pollan points out that 93% of the alfalfa in this country is raised without any herbicides at all. This makes sense, alfalfa as fodder can benefit from the addition of other plants (although not poisonous ones, obviously). My goats thrive on weedy alfalfa. Anyway, GM Alfalfa says Pollan, ‘is a bad solution to a problem that doesn’t exist’.

The Center for Food Safety is going to continue bringing Monsanto to court over GM Alfalfa. ‘by tackling a new angle, Page Tomaselli, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety, explained Friday at the Eco-Farm Conference. Their strategy will hinge on the “gene flow” risk accepted by the Supreme Court last June as harmful and illegal under current environment protections.’ The Public Patent Foundation is also going to sue Monsanto (or continue suing Monsanto. The foundation has been fighting Monsanto’s patents for a while now). If the foundation succeeds (and it just won a court battle to declare patents concerning human genes invalid), most of Monsanto’s patents concerning living things will be rendered irrelevant. Yes!

The Center for Food Safety has issued a press release pointing out that Vilsack’s decision leaves many problems. Who’s liable if a farmer’s crop is destroyed by GM pollen? Who pays damages? WHo is going to monitor and control herbicide useage on a crop that doesn’t need it, unless it’s ‘Round-Up Ready’? Who is liable for the super-weeds that will result?

From the Department of ‘Of Course, We Should have Known!’ (via Kat) comes this news. Media reports suggest that the reason Vilsack disregarded the comments of 200,000+, the recommendations of Aphis and so on has to do with pressure from the White House. So I wonder, is Obama actually fake? I mean, is he, like, made by Monsanto and the others? Just a gas-bag filled with whatever, maybe Round-Up, and tuned to say certain things that get frat boys excited? I wonder what Michelle, organic gardening proponent that she is, thinks about this? I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Just more proof everyone up ‘high’ is bought and paid for by the time they are weaned.

Didn’t we just do this?

(In which Sima works herself up into a frothing rant.)

Commodity futures prices, wheat, rice and corn, are rising again after a brief fall. In fact, they are supposed to top the records set in 2007/08 during the global food bubble.
Supposedly, Corn Rationing Needs to Begin:

“The corn market has one job and one job only—to go high enough to make people stop using the product,” says Ryan Turner, risk management consultant for FCStone, Kansas City. “We are past the point of encouraging more supply.” Turner predicts 2011 corn futures prices will exceed 2008 highs. “I don’t know if it will happen in January or June, but it will happen,” he says.

Soaring corn prices will slice into demand, with corn exports expected to fall first followed by feed usage. Analysts anticipate the cattle industry to begin rationing earlier than other livestock sectors due to poor margins, but rationing in poultry, hog, and dairy will be close behind. “It will be very painful,” Turner adds.

Those greedy so-and-sos! Imagine, eating corn and corn products? Making corn into feed to raise farm animals and then slaughtering those animals to feed humans. And furthermore, they feed the corn to dairy cows and produce milk and cheese and butter! Will the horror never end!

Obviously, everyone needs to suffer (UN: World Food Prices Hit a Record High in December). Especially the world’s poor. And those who produce the meat we Americans so love to eat are not to be excluded from the necessary pain. And those who produce the dairy we love to drink and nosh on with our imported European crackers. And those who make corn into tortillas, and those who make corn into corn syrup and those who make corn into ethanol… oh wait. Not those. In fact, those last ones may be part of what is driving the rise in corn prices. Nearly 1/3 of the 2010 US corn production was diverted to ethanol, after all.

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