Chain stores join with Michelle Obama to green the food deserts

Some of the largest U.S. grocers announced that they would join forces with First Lady Michelle Obama to bring healthy food to parts of the country, urban and rural, where access to fresh groceries is poor.

Walmart, the largest food retailer in the United States, took part in an announcement with the first lady at the White House on Wednesday afternoon. Supervalu and Walgreens are also participating.

All three chains announced plans to open stores in so-called “food desert” parts of the country, where people lack access to grocery stores and their fresh produce and meats. According to data provided by Supervalu, there are more than 23 million people, including more than 6 million children, live in U.S. food deserts…

Such efforts could help Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, to win favor with city councils and other leaders who object to its efforts to open stores in New York City and other parts of the country…

The first lady’s efforts in these areas have helped focus our real estate process, to take a particular look at these areas as we build out our real estate plans,” said Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart.

Supervalu already operates about 400 stores in areas some may consider food deserts, including five recently opened units on the Chicago’s South Side, Chief Executive Craig Herkert told Reuters.

“What’s new for us is committing very publicly with the Partnership for a Healthier America and the first lady to 250” new stores in food deserts, he said.

Walgreen Co, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, committed to convert or open at least 1,000 “food oasis” stores over the next five years stocked with fruits, vegetables and other healthy fare.

More than 45 percent of Walgreen’s existing stores are in areas that do not have easy access to fresh food, CEO Greg Wasson said in a statement.

Every little bit helps.

Convincing urban poor folks that better food, better nutrition is a benefit will be as big a problem as access to healthier food in the first place. Not just my humble opinion – but, my experience dealing with 2nd or 3rd generation urban poor. That’s a very different culture from poor rural folks moving into cities.

Chinese counterfeiting extends to complete phony retail stores

Extremely detailed knock-off Apple retail stores, complete with blue t-shirt-wearing employees claiming to work for the company, have been discovered in China.

According to the blog BirdAbroad, several counterfeit Apple stores have popped up in Kunming, China. One such location featured a winding staircase and employees in t-shirts with Apple logos and name tags.

“The name tags around the necks of the friendly salespeople didn’t actually have names on them – just an Apple logo and the anonymous designation “Staff,”” the report read.

The author called the store “the best ripoff store” she had ever seen, though there were several giveaways, such as the poor quality of the staircase and a sub-par paint job. Also, the stores do not appear to have upgraded to Apple’s Retail 2.0 layout that uses iPads as “smart signs.”

According to her, the employees at the store “all genuinely think they work for Apple.” After store security guards and employees prohibited her from taking photos, the author hinted that she and her husband were “two American Apple employees visiting China and checking out the local stores” and were then allowed to photograph the store.

A world-class “Har”.

Canada to revoke 1800 fraudulent citizenships

Most of the 1,800 people the feds believe obtained their citizenship fraudulently are Canadians of convenience who don’t even live here, according to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. “Most of these people, we believe, have never really lived in Canada and are still overseas,” he said Wednesday…

“We frankly have got them dead to rights with the proof that we have, and I don’t think a lot of these people want to go through a long, protracted public court battle where it’s clear they fraudulently obtained our citizenship. We expect most of them will just accept our decision and we’ll be able to do this in a fairly quick and low-cost way.”

The federal government revealed Tuesday it will revoke the citizenship of 1,800 people alleged to have obtained their Canadian citizenship fraudulently.

For the most part, it appears those people fudged or hired crooked immigration consultants to fudge for them their residency requirements…

Kenney warned the 1,800 are likely just the first tranche of people to have their citizenship revoked as the feds crack down on the crooked consultants.

He called it, “widespread residency fraud, where these consultants will sell packages for thousands of dollars, create a fake house or address or apartment, create fake utility bills and submit those to my ministry as proof of residency.”

In 2006, the federal government shelled out nearly $100 million evacuating 15,000 Canadian citizens from Lebanon during the Lebanon-Israel conflict.

It turns out many of them had rarely, if ever, set foot in Canada, prompting some to blast them as “Canadians of convenience…”

Since Confederation, Canada has only ever revoked 67 citizenships, 63 of them since 1977.

Sounds like this is overdue. If so, I have to ask how long did it take for someone to notice a practice this phony was going on? Like – who’s watching the store?

Yes, that is a helluva question for an American to ask, eh?

Renewable energy-powered development planned for Aalborg

Proposed for the Aalborg Waterfront in Denmark, a new housing development would feature 60 apartments, from 4 to 12 stories high, all supplied with a 100 percent renewable energy source…

C.F. Møller’s architectural design features a south-facing roof-plane, fitted with 1,200 sq.m. of photovoltaic and solar thermal panels. The solar paneling is reportedly capable of producing 104,000 KWh of electricity annually, which is estimated to be enough to cover the yearly electricity demand of every apartment. In addition, four vertical axis low-noise wind turbines take advantage of strong western winds, creating an additional power supply to recharge electric cars. A rainwater collection system is used to irrigate the surrounding gardens, whilst the lush landscaping helps maintain a clean air environment. Tall window openings allow for natural light to filter through to the apartments’ living zones, an example of the passive-housing standards that are incorporated to ensure reduced energy consumption all round.

This slide-like shape of the building creates a distinctive silhouette, which is positioned between Aalborg’s main bridges. The roof-plane appears as if it is stretching into the water’s edge, where an underpass shelters a public gazebo and café. The extension of the roof is a visual display of the building’s power plant, and whilst it may take precedence over optimum, waterfront views, it’s essential to the building’s sustainable design.

Delightful. I can picture this design in a few comparable locales where I had clients back in the day. Most certainly in the vibrant waterfront of Portland, Maine.

Just keep their backwards governor from sticking his nose in. He’d probably insist on replacing the solar panels with coal-burning potbelly stoves.

Sen. Feinstein backs bill to repeal federal statute limiting marriage

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, announced Tuesday a bill to repeal the federal law that defines marriage as a “legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and that allows states to reject legal same sex marriages from other states.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, passed both the House and the Senate in 1996.

Feinstein said she is one of only 14 senators who voted against the legislation at the time. “I thought even then, this is unconstitutional and wrong. Well, today it’s unconstitutional, I believe, and wrong,” she said in a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

She said her bill would “strike the Defense of Marriage Act from law and would free the government to allow for the same type of benefits they allow for married couples to also be applied to same-sex couples…”

Believe it or not, there are over 1,000 federal laws and protections that are afforded to married couples but are not afforded to legally married same-sex couples in any of the states that have approved same-sex marriage,” she said.

Kathleen Cumiskey and Robin Garber were among three same-sex couples who joined Feinstein at the news conference. They said they traveled from New York’s Staten Island with a stack of papers they take with them nearly everywhere.

The couple was married in Toronto, Canada, in 2006 and their home state of New York legally recognized their marriage in 2008. But when they travel across state lines, they said, they have to bring with them paperwork in case of an emergency.

“We traveled from New York City last night and had to bring with us our box of documents,” Garber said holding up a marbled-cover box. “Wherever we go we need to be able to prove the legal documentation of our relationship. We need to be able to prove that we are legally responsible for each other, that we have the legal right to make decisions for each other.”

She added, “We find it really incredible that we can travel halfway around the world — we can go to Spain, we can go to Ireland, we can go to South Africa — and have our marriage recognized and respected, but when we travel 15 miles from our own front door that is not the case and we need our box of documents.”

Overdue. Like so much civil rights law in the land – it’s time to dump the hatred and fear and support equal opportunities for all citizens.

Should be a cutting edge showdown between the Right side of the issue from homophobes all the way to the simply intellectually lazy opposing change – versus official Democrats including the president who has said he will endorse the “Respect for Marriage” Act, progressives and conservatives with a commitment to the Bill of Rights.

Antiviral drug from genetically modified plants begins human trials

An antiviral drug synthesised by genetically modified plants is being tested on a small number of women in the UK to establish its safety, bringing closer the possibility of cheap modern medicines for the developing world.

The drug’s developers hope it can be used to prevent HIV infection, but the real breakthrough is that the research demonstrates it is possible for similar molecules – known as monoclonal antibodies – to be produced relatively cheaply in plants to the high standards needed for their use in humans…

Pharma-Planta is a project launched seven years ago with the objective of using GM plants to slash the cost of drugs that are hard to produce. The scientists’ aim is to increase the availability of these modern medicines – which are often highly effective – in the poorest countries of the world.

Access to medicines in the developing world is extremely limited. The World Health Organization estimates that 23 million infants worldwide do not get adequate basic immunisation and 1.7 million children under five die from vaccine-preventable diseases…

Many medicines are synthesised at great expense in fermentation vats containing bacteria or mammalian cells. By contrast Pharma-Planta produced the anti-HIV monoclonal antibody in GM tobacco plants grown in soil in greenhouses in Germany. After 45 days, they were harvested, their leaves were shredded and “highly purified antibodies” were extracted.

The researchers say there is little risk of such GM plants spreading or contaminating other crops because they are contained and would not be grown on anything like an agricultural scale…

If it does prove effective, the drug would probably have to be used in combination with other monoclonal antibodies to minimise the chance that the virus developed resistance, as it easily does to antivirals.

The process is between 10 and 100 times cheaper than conventional production systems, said Professor Rainer Fischer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology in Aachen, Germany, where the plants were grown.

The most useful monoclonal antibodies, such as the anti-cancer drug Herceptin, are still covered by patents owned by major pharmaceutical companies, but once these expire the new technique could offer a way to make cheap versions available in poor countries.

Not that our bubbas in the pharma majors won’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming into allowing a modern scheme where availability and usefulness determine a lower price.

And that will be only one side of pop culture resistance. The other will be our tried and true Luddites. Though this may be too critically focused on direct healthcare. Their strategy still seems to be keeping the cost of things like cereal grains high enough to keep the Chicago Mercantile Exchange bubbling with happiness.