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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Processed Meats Declared Too Dangerous For Human Consumption

From Mike Adams at Total Health Breakthroughs

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has just completed a detailed review of more than 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer. Its conclusion is rocking the health world with startling bluntness: Processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption. Consumers should stop buying and eating all processed meat products for the rest of their lives.

Processed meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, sandwich meat, packaged ham, pepperoni, salami and virtually all red meat used in frozen prepared meals. They are usually manufactured with a carcinogenic ingredient known as sodium nitrite. This is used as a color fixer by meat companies to turn packaged meats a bright red color so they look fresh. Unfortunately, sodium nitrite also results in the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines in the human body. And this leads to a sharp increase in cancer risk for those who eat them.

A 2005 University of Hawaii study found that processed meats increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 67 percent. Another study revealed that every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 50 percent. These are alarming numbers. Note that these cancer risks do not come from eating fresh, non-processed meats. They only appear in people who regularly consume processed meat products containing sodium nitrite.

Sodium nitrite appears predominantly in red meat products (you won’t find it in chicken or fish products). Here’s a short list of food items to check carefully for sodium nitrite and monosodium glutamate (MSG), another dangerous additive:
  • Beef jerky
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Hot dogs
  • Sandwich meat
  • Frozen pizza with meat
  • Canned soups with meat
  • Frozen meals with meat
  • Ravioli and meat pasta foods
  • Kid’s meals containing red meat
  • Sandwich meat used at popular restaurants
  • Nearly all red meats sold at public schools, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and theme parks
If sodium nitrite is so dangerous to humans, why do the FDA and USDA continue to allow this cancer-causing chemical to be used? The answer, of course, is that food industry interests now dominate the actions by U.S. government regulators. The USDA, for example, tried to ban sodium nitrite in the late 1970’s but was overridden by the meat industry. It insisted the chemical was safe and accused the USDA of trying to “ban bacon.” Today, the corporations that dominate American food and agricultural interests hold tremendous influence over the FDA and USDA. Consumers are offered no real protection from dangerous chemicals intentionally added to foods, medicines and personal care products.

You can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of processed meats by following a few simple rules:
  1. Always read ingredient labels.
  2. Don’t buy anything made with sodium nitrite or monosodium glutamate.
  3. Don’t eat red meats served by restaurants, schools, hospitals, hotels or other institutions.
And finally, eat more fresh produce with every meal. There is evidence that natural vitamin C found in citrus fruits and exotic berries (like camu camu) helps prevent the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines, protecting you from the devastating health effects of sodium nitrite in processed meats. The best defense, of course, is to avoid eating processed meats altogether.

Mike Adams, the Health Ranger - a leading authority on healthy living -- is on a mission: to explore, uncover and share the truth about harmful foods and beverages, prescription drugs, medical practices and the dishonest marketing practices that drive these industries. For his latest findings, click here.]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Does America Need Manufacturing?

Gabriele Stabile/Cesuralab for The New York Times.
Employees at the A123 Systems factory in Livonia, Mich.

You can drive almost anywhere in the state of Michigan — pick a point at random and start moving — and you will soon come upon the wreckage of American industry. If you happen to be driving on the outer edge of Midland, you’ll also come upon a cavern of steel beams and ductwork, 400,000 square feet in all. When this plant, which is being constructed by Dow Kokam, a new venture partly owned by Dow Chemical, is up and running early next year, it will produce hundreds of thousands of advanced lithium-ion battery cells for hybrid and electric cars. Just as important, it will provide about 350 jobs in a state with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

Over the last two years, the federal government has doled out nearly $2.5 billion in stimulus dollars to roughly 30 companies involved in advanced battery technology. Many of these might seem less like viable businesses than scenery for political photo ops — places President Obama can repeatedly visit (as he did early this month) to demonstrate his efforts at job creation. But in fact, the battery start-ups are more legitimate, and also more controversial, than that. They represent “the far edge,” as one White House official put it, of where the president or Congress might go to create jobs.

For decades, the federal government has generally resisted throwing its weight —and its money — behind particular industries. If the market was killing manufacturing jobs, it was pointless to fight it. The government wasn’t in the business of picking winners. Many economic theorists have long held that countries inevitably pursue their natural or unique advantages. Some advantages might arise from fertile farmland or gifts of vast mineral resources; others might be rooted in the high education rates of their citizenry. As the former White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers put it, America’s role is to feed a global economy that’s increasingly based on knowledge and services rather than on making stuff. So even as governments in China and Japan offered aid to industries they deemed important, factories in the United States closed or moved abroad. The conviction in Washington was that manufacturing deserved no special dispensation. Even now, as unemployment ravages the country, so-called industrial policy remains politically toxic. Legislators will not debate it; most will not even speak its name.

By almost any account, the White House has fallen woefully short on job creation during the past two and a half years. But galvanized by the potential double payoff of skilled, blue-collar jobs and a dynamic clean-energy industry — the administration has tried to buck the tide with lithium-ion batteries. It had to start almost from scratch. In 2009, the U.S. made less than 2 percent of the world’s lithium-ion batteries. By 2015, the Department of Energy projects that, thanks mostly to the government’s recent largess, the United States will have the capacity to produce 40 percent of them. Whichever country figures out how to lead in the production of lithium-ion batteries will be well positioned to capture “a large piece of the world’s future economic prosperity,” says Arun Majumdar, the head of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The batteries, he stressed, are essential to the future of the global-transportation business and to a variety of clean-energy industries.

We may marvel at the hardware and software of mobile phones and laptops, but batteries don’t get the credit they deserve. Without a lithium-ion battery, your iPad would be a kludge. The new Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf rely on big racks of lithium-ion battery cells to hold their electric charges, and a number of new models — including those from Ford and Toyota, which use similar battery technology — are on their way to showrooms within the next 18 months.

This flurry of activity comes against a dismal backdrop. In the last decade, the United States lost some five million manufacturing jobs, a contraction of about one-third. Added to the equally brutal decades that preceded it, this decline left large swaths of the country, the Great Lakes region in particular, without a clear economic future. As I drove through the hollowed-out cities and towns of Michigan earlier this year, it was hard to tell how some of these places could survive. Inside the handful of battery companies that I visited, though, the mood was starkly different. Many companies are working on battery-pack designs for dozens of car models. At the Johnson Controls factory in Holland, Mich., Ray Shemanski, who is in charge of the company’s lithium-ion operation, said, “We have orders that would fill this plant right now.” Every company I visited not only had plans to get their primary factories running full speed by 2012 or 2013 but also to build or expand others. Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s former governor, has predicted that advanced batteries will create 62,000 jobs over the next decade.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Electric Car-Makers' Quest: One Plug To Charge Them All

Lara Solt/Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press

Click here to read the full article from Csaba Csere at the New York Times


WITH electric cars and plug-in hybrids at last trickling into the showrooms of mainstream automakers, the dream of going gasoline-free is becoming a reality for many drivers. Cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt can cover considerable distances under electric power alone — certainly enough for local errands and even most daily commutes — while enabling their owners to shun gas stations.

Indeed, charging the car’s battery pack at home, or topping up at the office or shopping mall, will work fine for most drivers. But what about trips that are beyond the range of a single battery charge? Couldn’t a driver in need simply pull up to a charging kiosk and plug in for a rapid refill?

It’s not that simple.

Sure, there are already public charging stations in service, and new ones are coming online daily. But those typically take several hours to fully replenish a battery.

As a result, the ability for quick battery boosts — using a compatible direct current fast charger, the Leaf can refill to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes — could potentially become an important point of differentiation among electric models.

But the availability of fast charging points has in part been held up by the lack of an agreement among automakers on a universal method for fast charging — or even on a single electrical connector. Today’s prevalent D.C. fast-charge systems are built to a standard developed in Japan by Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru in conjunction with Tokyo Electric Power.

Called Chademo, which translates roughly to “charge and move,” it uses a connector that is different from the plugs in most electric cars. As a result, a Chademo-compatible car like the Nissan Leaf requires two separate sockets.

Overcoming the limitation of a short driving range is vital to achieving acceptance by consumers who want uncompromised, do-everything vehicles. The potential solutions all have drawbacks. Larger batteries are expensive and saddle the car with added weight. An onboard generator turned by a gasoline engine, as used in the Volt plug-in hybrid and similar future models, are another possible solution, but such systems add cost and pounds — and compromise the emissions-free image that attracts consumers to electric cars in the first place.

Leisurely overnight recharging is no problem. All electric cars come with a standard charging cable that can plug into a common 120-volt household electrical outlet. More than just an extension cord, this cable incorporates various safety features.

“There is no energy flowing through the cord until the car talks to the box,” said Gary Kissel, an engineering specialist for General Motors, referring to the charging cord’s electronics. “It also has a G.F.C.I. and signals the car that the cable is connected, making it impossible for you to drive off if you forget that you’re plugged in,” he said, using the abbreviation for the safety provision known as a ground fault circuit interrupter.

The Leaf and the Volt, as well as future electric cars coming to the American market, can use these 120-volt cords interchangeably because they are all designed to the SAE J1772 standard. A task force assembled by SAE International, an organization of scientists and vehicle engineers, developed the design specifications for the J1772 standard through a committee of 150 carmakers, electrical equipment makers and utilities.

Other groups, including the American National Standards Institute, are also working on standards and codes for electric cars.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Debate Arises On Job Creation And The Environment

Click here to read the full article from Motoko Rich and John Broder at the New York Times

Spencer Weitman, president of the National Cement Company of Alabama, said the environmental regulations were a moving target.

Republicans and business groups say yes, arguing that environmental protection is simply too expensive for a battered economy. They were quick to claim victory Friday after the Obama administration abandoned stricter ozone pollution standards.

Many economists agree that regulation comes with undeniable costs that can affect workers. Factories may close because of the high cost of cleanup, or owners may relocate to countries with weaker regulations.

But many experts say that the effects should be assessed through a nuanced tally of costs and benefits that takes into account both economic and societal factors. Some argue that the costs can be offset as companies develop cheaper ways to clean up pollutants, and others say that regulation is often blamed for job losses that occur for different reasons, like a stagnant economy. As companies develop new technologies to cope with regulatory requirements, some new jobs are created.

What’s more, some economists say, previous regulations, like the various amendments to the Clean Air Act, have resulted in far lower costs and job losses than industrial executives initially feared.

For example, when the Environmental Protection Agency first proposed amendments to the Clean Air Act aimed at reducing acid rain caused by power plant emissions, the electric utility industry warned that they would cost $7.5 billion and tens of thousands of jobs. But the cost of the program has been closer to $1 billion, said Dallas Burtraw, an economist at Resources for the Future, a nonprofit research group on the environment. And the E.P.A., in a paper published this year, cited studies showing that the law had been a modest net creator of jobs through industry spending on technology to comply with it.

The question of just how much environmental regulation hurts jobs is a particularly delicate one as leaders in Washington debate the best ways to address the nation’s stubbornly high unemployment rate. As President Obama prepares for an important speech on Thursday focusing on job creation, Republicans are pushing for a rollback in environmental regulations that they say saddle companies with onerous costs that curtail jobs without leading to significant improvement in environmental or public health.

Part of the problem in evaluating the costs of regulation is that there have been few systematic studies of such costs after regulations are imposed.

“Regulations are put on the books and largely stay there unexamined,” said Michael Greenstone, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This is part of the reason that these debates about regulations have a Groundhog’s Day quality to them.”

Mr. Greenstone has conducted one of the few studies that actually measure job losses related to environmental rules. In researching the amendments to the Clean Air Act that affected polluting plants from 1972 and 1987, he found that those companies lost almost 600,000 jobs compared with what would have happened without the regulations.

But Mr. Greenstone has also conducted research showing that clean air regulations have reduced infant mortality and increased housing prices, and indeed many economists argue that job losses should not be considered in isolation. They say the costs of regulations are dwarfed by the gains in lengthened lives, reduced hospitalizations and other health benefits, and by economic gains like the improvement to the real estate market.

Business groups also tend to cite regulation even if other factors are involved, critics say. The cement industry is currently warning that as many as 18 of the 100 cement plants currently operating in the United States could close down because of proposed stricter standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, resulting in the direct loss of 13,000 jobs.

An E.P.A. analysis of the proposed rules projects a much smaller effect, ranging from as few as 600 jobs lost to 1,300 jobs actually added in companies that make cleaner equipment.

Some cement plants could be at risk simply because of the economy. With the housing market on its knees, demand for cement is down by about 40 percent from its prerecession peak. According to Andy O’Hare, vice president for regulatory affairs at the Portland Cement Association, a trade group, about a third of the cement plants in the country are being shut off every other month.