China busts more than 2,000 in nationwide food safety crackdown


Chinese municipal contest: guess which cooking oil is counterfeit?
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

China has detained more than 2,000 people, seized tonnes of tainted products and closed more than 5,000 companies in a five-month crackdown on food safety problems, but the road ahead remains tough, state media said on Monday.

“Our recent campaign has achieved notable success. But this is just a beginning,” an unnamed official from the cabinet’s food safety task force told Xinhua news agency.

“The campaign should not be given an excessively high appraisal. We cannot lower our guard or rest up, and must be aware of the complex, long-term nature of the food safety problem and remain on high alert,” the official added…

China has struggled to rein in health safety violations in the unruly and vast food sector despite harsh punishments and repeated vows to deal with the problem.

Since July, Chinese courts have sentenced at least a dozen people to jail, including one person who received a suspended death sentence, for their roles in producing or selling pork tainted with toxic chemicals.

In the latest scandal, authorities detained 32 people for making and selling tonnes of cooking oil dredged from gutters and repackaged for sale as new.

Overdue.

When you have an enormous country – unregulated for centuries – criminal habits become tradition. It took the United States decades to get up to something as incomplete and often powerless as the FDA after Upton Sinclair published The Jungle. And that body’s mandate has been reversed by more than one Republican administration since.

I believe the Chinese government is aware of the task. Especially if they intend to grow their international commerce in foodstuffs. But, like anything else involving human beings and corruption, sometimes you need more than good intentions to resolve corruption. Like a lot of people with badges!

Mom hid drugs, used needles, under her baby’s dress

A Port St. Lucie woman remained in the St. Lucie County jail Sunday after sheriff’s deputies say she placed drugs and used syringes under her baby’s daughter’s dress to avoid being searched by a female St. Lucie County Sheriff’s deputy.

Deanna Marie Angelico, 31, of the 800 block of Southeast Sweetbay Avenue, was charged with felony child neglect without great harm, felony drug possession and misdemeanor possession of drug equipment.

According to arrest reports, she and Michael G. Angelico, 23, were in a vehicle stopped by deputies in the 800 block of Prima Vista Boulevard after witnesses reported seeing two people shooting up drugs.

Michael Angelico…was charged with felony drug possession and misdemeanor possession of drug equipment. He was released Sunday on $5,500 bond; Deanna Angelico was held in lieu of $8,000 bond.

There probably was a word like “scumbag” used even in pre-biblical times for the behavior of people who enrolled in the addict’s lifestyle.

Black journalist arrested because he “looked like drug dealer”

New Zealand police arrested and strip searched a black South African rugby journalist drinking with white colleagues in a pub because he “fitted the profile of a drug dealer”.

Vata Ngobeni, who works for the Pretoria News newspaper and acts as an analyst for South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC, was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning and taken to a police station where he was strip searched.

When he tried to explain that he was a journalist on tour covering the Springboks’s performance in the Rugby World Cup, which New Zealand is hosting, he was told they were following standard procedure when they spot someone who fits “the profile of a drug dealer”.

Colleagues in the bar with him confirmed he was the only black person present.

“I have never been so embarrassed in my life,” he told a South African newspaper after being released. “I have never experienced this kind of treatment in all my travels around the world, so to be singled out as a common criminal in front of so many people is something I will never forget.”

Here in the United States we have so many politicians and populist pimps rationalizing away the possible effects of police profiling – we tend to forget that other nations from Israel to New Zealand have already established such foolishness as standard operating procedures.

Some are on their way out of official racism – which I hope would be the case in New Zealand – while others like Israel are baking institutionalized bigotry into daily life.

Church destroyed in election night arson – rebuilt, rededicated

In the hours after the 2008 election of the country’s first African-American president, three white men crept up to a predominantly African-American church being built here in Springfield, Massachusetts, blessed it corruptly with gasoline — and faded into the fresh November night.

Soon the church’s pastor, Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr., was at the crime scene’s flickering edge, weary, saddened. Moments before, he had been anticipating a new chapter in American history, and now here was one page, stuck. He didn’t need an investigation to tell him this was a racist act of arson. He is a black man with snow in his hair; he knew.

As he watched the new home for the Macedonia Church of God in Christ burn to the ground, Bishop Robinson imagined only one response: Rebuild.

Now, nearly three years later, that election night’s crisp air of possibility has all but faded in Washington, where the first African-American president, Barack Obama, struggles with grinding wars, a broken economy and spirit-killing partisanship. But here in Springfield, the smoke has lifted to reveal a new, 20,000-square-foot church standing on top of an old crime scene, its sanctuary walls painted the color of a clear blue sky.

Resting in one of its pews the other day, a silver cane by his side, Bishop Robinson, 74, said that this building on Tinkham Road reflects the ever-unfolding American story of race, in Washington, Springfield, everywhere. “The hatred in our country,” he said. “And the goodness in our country.”

The election night burning of a New England church became national news…Two months after the fire, three white men in their 20s were charged with burning down the church to express their rage at the thought of a black president. Two pleaded guilty, and the third was convicted after trial, in a case that The Republican newspaper of Springfield described as a “blot on the whole city.”

Unfortunately, it was a confirmation of my experiences as an African-American,” Bishop Robinson said, adding: “My faith teaches me to forgive, and I forgive them. But I cannot be accepting of their behavior. I cannot be victimized by hatred. So I have to move forward.”

How many Americans have not “moved forward”?

Every day we witness pallid imitations of a Free Press kneeling before the corporate recreation of White Citizens’ Councils and George Wallace’s populist and racist presidential campaign. They call it the Tea Party. A slander of patriots who fought for freedom from an imperial power.

My criticisms and challenge to Democrats and Obama thread through this blog week-by-week. That does not lessen my contempt for gullible, self-deceiving marchers down the road of reaction. Some are only moving a short step beyond what American conservatism used to be – they say. Others more directly take their direction from kreeps like the Kohl Brothers. A pair of bigots whose politics fit the mold of that Godfather of the Bush family – Prescott Bush – who profited royally from the work he performed for Brown Brothers Harriman supporting the freedoms promised by Herr Hitler.

I’d rather you RTFA and study the courage and spirit of Bishop Robinson. I’m certain I’d find a number of issues to debate with the gentleman. I’m equally certain I’d be honored to welcome him under my roof.

Psychotherapists are starting to ‘see’ their patients online

The event reminder on Melissa Weinblatt’s iPhone buzzed: 15 minutes till her shrink appointment.

She mixed herself a mojito, added a sprig of mint, put on her sunglasses and headed outside to her friend’s pool. Settling into a lounge chair, she tapped the Skype app on her phone. Hundreds of miles away, her face popped up on her therapist’s computer monitor; he smiled back on her phone’s screen.

She took a sip of her cocktail. The session began.

Ms. Weinblatt, a 30-year-old high school teacher in Oregon, used to be in treatment the conventional way — with face-to-face office appointments. Now, with her new doctor, she said: “I can have a Skype therapy session with my morning coffee or before a night on the town with the girls. I can take a break from shopping for a session. I took my doctor with me through three states this summer..!”

Since telepsychiatry was introduced decades ago, video conferencing has been an increasingly accepted way to reach patients in hospitals, prisons, veterans’ health care facilities and rural clinics — all supervised sites.

But today Skype, and encrypted digital software through third-party sites like CaliforniaLiveVisit.com, have made online private practice accessible for a broader swath of patients, including those who shun office treatment or who simply like the convenience of therapy on the fly…

Still, opportunities for exploitation, especially by those with sketchy credentials, are rife. Solo providers who hang out virtual shingles are a growing phenomenon…

Other questions abound. How should insurance reimburse online therapy? Is the therapist complying with licensing laws that govern practice in different states? Are videoconferencing sessions recorded? Hack-proof?

Another draw and danger of online therapy: anonymity. Many people avoid treatment for reasons of shame or privacy. Some online therapists do not require patients to fully identify themselves. What if those patients have breakdowns? How can the therapist get emergency help to an anonymous patient? “A lot of patients start therapy and feel worse before they feel better,” noted Marlene M. Maheu, founder of the TeleMental Health Institute, which trains providers and who has served on task forces to address these questions. “It’s more complex than people imagine. A provider’s Web site may say, ‘I won’t deal with patients who are feeling suicidal.’ But it’s our job to assess patients, not to ask them to self-diagnose.” She practices online therapy, but advocates consumer protections and rigorous training of therapists.

RTFA. Some of it is hilarious. Yes, I realize we’re discussing mostly legitimate needs and mostly legitimate practices designed to sort them.

I have a clear picture of the range of phonies and hustlers practicing therapeutic crafts — and how most states are easy as pie to tippy-toe around what passes for regulation and oversight. Cripes, I live in Santa Fe. I know people who channel stock tips!

Aside from the seriously disturbed, oftimes those with chemical and biological factors affecting their ability to function in society at all – a great deal of what people really need is conversation with someone who cares about listening. Maybe provide a tad of redirection towards solving problems on their own.

If I didn’t have so much fun blogging I might wander into the shrink-wrapped Skype therapy trade. Though I’d hate the record-keeping required to keep the IRS and insurance companies happy. 🙂

Swords into plowshares – or Hummers into wheelchair vans

The AM General auto assembly plant in Mishawaka, Indiana is where they used to build Hummer H2s. Now, its workers are making something a little less … controversial. It’s a van called the MV-1, MV standing for “Mobility Vehicle,” and it’s designed specifically for wheelchair-using passengers. Its designers claim that it is better suited to the handicapped than converted conventional vans, and the first factory-built model rolled off the assembly line yesterday.

A product of Miami’s Vehicle Production Group, the MV-1 has a large 56 x 36-inch side door, and a 1,200 pound-capacity deployable ramp that stows under the floor when not in use. It can accommodate two wheelchair-using passengers, or one wheelchair and five additional traditionally-seated occupants, if the optional jump seat is used. Floor tracks are used to secure wheelchairs and scooters. The non-handicapped driver sits behind the wheel in a regular-style seat – perhaps future versions could allow wheelchair users to also drive, using something like RUVID’s hand control device?

The vehicle is based around a body-on-frame configuration, and is powered by a Ford 4.6L 2V EFI V8 engine with an electronic four-speed automatic transmission. For the energy and/or environmentally-conscious, however, a factory-installed Compressed Natural Gas fuel system is also available. Vans with the CNG system should have a driving range of approximately 290 miles.

More specs and other information can be found on the MV-1 website, where vehicles can also be ordered. The base SE model is priced at $39,950, for American customers only.

The sounds pretty price competitive to me. Though most of what I’ve ever seen has been van conversions which is more expensive by definition – compared to a production operation in a modern factory.