Boatload of bananas caught in shipping dispute

A cargo ship with 110,000 cartons of overripe bananas will remain docked at a U.S. port while their owner and the shipping company battle in court over who let them go brown.

Del Monte Fresh Produce earlier this week sued Netherlands-based shipping company Seatrade Group for $1.5 million, claiming that in their four-day trip on the Green Brazil from Guatemala to Gloucester City, New Jersey, the tropical fruit became “no longer fit for human consumption.”

Del Monte argued in papers filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey that the bananas were not kept at the proper temperature.

Judge Robert Kugler ordered the Green Brazil held in port until the two parties work out the slippery dispute.

The solution seems perfectly obvious to me. I know what works in our household. Make banana bread.

I offer my solution. On a larger scale of course.

Canada strikes down national criminal prostitution laws

Nikki Thomas/director Sex Professionals of Canada, Terri-Jean Bedford, Valerie Scott

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down as unconstitutional the main scheme of criminal laws against the buying and selling of sex by prostitutes, saying it endangers the lives and security of vulnerable sex workers.

However, the country’s top court has given Parliament a one-year grace period to redraft a legislative scheme that could pass constitutional muster.

That means if, 12 months from today, the federal government has not redrawn the laws to address the court’s concern that they are too arbitrary, overbroad and “grossly disproportionate,” then prostitutes will be allowed to legally practice their trade, hire drivers, bodyguards, accountants and screen their clients freely.

In the meantime, the Criminal Code ban on brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution remain in full effect…

The stunning judgment that the country’s main prostitution laws breach fundamental Charter rights was a unanimous conclusion reached by all nine judges, including the retiring Justice Morris Fish. The court flatly rejected calls by the federal government’s lawyers to defer to Parliament on the contentious matter.

The appeal, known as Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, Lebovitch and Scott was brought by Toronto-based dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, former prostitute Valerie Scott, and downtown eastside Vancouver’s Amy Lebovitch. All three were on hand in Ottawa, and rejoiced loudly.

If you haven’t been following the case, the article is long, detailed and informative. Frankly, it’s worth reading because it should nudge your own thought processes. The questions raised ain’t easy.

On one hand, any sort of libertarian outlook says, let folks earn a living however they wish if they aren’t producing permanent harm to individuals and society. That last word brings in all the religions and philosophers. Not me. Individual freedoms are pretty hard to celebrate to a level that harms a nation.

The only concern from my side is the opportunity for criminals enterprise to profit from and control the lives of sex workers. And history tells us that is easier under criminalization than without. As alcohol prohibition has taught us, as our wonderful war on drugs illustrates on a daily basis.

Worth thinking about, folks – even if the opportunity to visit the question in your own country isn’t likely.

Drug-resistant bacteria common on raw chicken sold in US

Consumer Reports tested 316 raw chicken breasts from supermarkets around the country and found that 97 percent of the samples contained some form of potentially harmful bacteria — including enterococcus, E.coli, campylobacter, klebsiella pneumonia, salmonella and staph.

In the report, titled “The High Cost of Cheap Chicken,” researchers also found that chicken labeled “organic” or “antibiotic free” was just as likely to contain contaminated bacteria. Samples were gleaned from local grocery stores, chains and big box stores located in 26 states…

Nearly half of the samples (49.7%) tested positively for at least one kind of bacterium resistant to three or more types of antibiotics…

Consumer Reports joined other consumer rights groups in urging the Food and Drug Administration to eliminate the use of antibiotics in meat products. Last week, the FDA released guidelines recommending that farmers limit their use, though critics say the measure doesn’t go far enough…

Food Safety News notes that while “only some” of the bacteria found in such amounts on the chicken could actually cause food poisoning, “they do indicate widespread fecal contamination of chicken meat. They are also capable of causing infections of the skin, blood and urinary tract if presented an opportunity.”

There is only one local market where we presently buy meat. It is one of a chain advertising itself as purveyor of natural and organic food in addition to conventional products. They ain’t the leader of the pack by any stretch of the imagination. But, when we started shopping there a year ago, I took the time to acquaint myself with a couple of the butchers, even the head of the meat department.

I criticized a couple of minor failings I noted, complimented other products deserving credit. I took the time to get to know folks on staff – as I have done elsewhere. For I still think the question of food safety comes down to management and staff procedures at the local level. These folks aren’t the only operation in town coming up to what I feel is adequate food safety requirements; but, they combine their skills and standards with prices better fitting workingclass families.

Take the time to do the same in your neck of the prairie, folks. It’s worth your life.

Southwest Airlines planes gathering weather data for NOAA

Every 12 hours, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launches weather balloons from approximately 70 locations across the US. While these do provide valuable data, a lot can change between those intervals and those locations. That’s why a new project is taking advantage of something that’s already going up in the sky on a much more frequent basis and in a higher number of locations – Southwest Airlines jets…

So far, 87 of the airline’s Boeing 737s have been fitted with Water Vapor Sensing Systems (WVSS-II) made by SpectraSensors. These are the same sensors already used on balloons, to measure moisture distribution throughout the atmosphere. By observing how that distribution changes over time, aviation weather forecasters are able to make predictions regarding things like “location and timing of fog, cloud formation and dissipation, and altitudes of cloud ceilings.”

The newly-deployed sensors will make measurements hundreds of times in one flight, as each aircraft ascends and descends through the atmosphere during take-off and landing. Readings will be automatically transmitted to the headquarters of Aeronautical Radio Incorporated, then processed and relayed to the US National Weather Service (part of NOAA) for use in weather forecasts and warnings.

The project seems to be doing well enough that it will be expanded throughout more of the Southwest fleet as part of NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation initiative.