Monday, September 17, 2012

USA: Potential Dock worker's strike could reach from Northeast to Gulf of Mexico ...

Federal mediator will oversee meetings

Negotiators for the International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance are scheduled to meet Wednesday to resume stalled contract bargaining under supervision of a federal mediator. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service is overseeing the talks, aimed at working out a contract covering ILA dockworkers

Longshoremen, employers to resume talks

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Port of Houston Authority and companies that handle or rely on containerized cargo shipments are watching contract negotiations between unionized dockworkers and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, which represents employers.

The International Longshoremen's Association said last month it was preparing for a possible strike on Oct. 1, the day after a master contract covering 14,500 jobs at more than a dozen ports on the East and Gulf coasts is set to expire.

The parties have been negotiating since March, according to the Maritime Alliance website, and reached a tentative agreement over some portions of the contract in midsummer, but negotiations stalled Aug. 22 over wages and benefits. They resume negotiations this week with federal mediators.

"We made a request to the parties, and they have agreed to resume negotiations under our auspices the week of the 17th," said John Arnold, spokesman for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, concerned with potential disruptions to the flow of consumer goods before the holiday season, have urged the parties to forge ahead with negotiations.

"Failure to reach agreement will lead to supply chain disruptions which could seriously harm the U.S. economy,"Matthew Shay, CEO of the retail group, said in a news release in late August, the week after negotiations stalled.

On its website, the Maritime Alliance touts a record of successful negotiations with the ILA since 1977, "without any disruptions."

The 14 ports covered under the soon-expiring contract "handled more than 110 million tons of import and export cargo, accounting for 95 percent of containerized shipments from Maine to Texas," according to the alliance website.

Maria Echeverry, general manager of Cadeco Industries, which receives mainly green coffee imports at its facility on the Houston port, said her company's customers - particularly large-scale coffee roasters that rely on daily shipments - are preparing contingency plans in the event of a strike.

"They are definitely concerned," Echeverry said, noting that the Green Coffee Association has been sending out updates every few days.

Capt. Bill Diehl, president of the Greater Houston Port Bureau, which counts the ILA and management groups as members, said the Houston port may not be as affected as others if a strike does occur because 60  percent of incoming ships service the petrochemical industry, meaning they don't carry containers and thus won't be affected.

However, the majority of Port of Houston Authority's revenues come from its two container terminals, Barbours Cut and Bayport, which employ 80 to 150 ILA workers on any given day. A spokesman confirmed the authority is closely watching the talks.

The West Gulf Maritime Association, which represents employers that operate at the port, estimates that 1,000 ILA workers are on the wharves in Houston each workday.

The Food Fight in Your Gut: Why Bacteria Will Change the Way You Think about Calories ...


By Ferris Jabr | September 12, 2012 

Campylobacter bacteria (Image by Agricultural Research Service, via Wikimedia Commons)

There’s a food fight in your guts. 

Not the Tater-Tot-chucking, spoonful-of-mashed potato-flinging, melee-in-the-cafeteria type of food fight. 

Rather, your intestines are the site of an ancient and complex war between your own cells and trillions of bacteria—a war over what happens to your food as it moves through your body. Some of the bacteria form genuine alliances with your intestinal cells, breaking down tough plant fibers that your cells cannot handle on their own, or chopping up lengthy caterpillar molecules into more digestible packages, in exchange for a portion of the day’s calories. 

Other bacteria lurk and loiter, sipping the nutrient-rich broth sloshing in your intestines as they wait for their chance to overrun your guts at the expense of your health

Every day, these microorganisms squabble amongst themselves for greater access to available nutrients. And sometimes your cells fight back, working extra hard to digest the food you eat before those persistent microbes help themselves to a disproportionately large serving. 

Studies suggest that the diversity of bacterial species in our guts partially determines how efficiently our cells process and store food and that, in a feedback loop, what we eat alters the demographics of the bacteria in our intestines. Commonly prescribed antibiotics are responsible for unintended microbial casualties, further changing how our resident population of microorganisms responds to our diet. 

Although scientists are still figuring out the rules of this intricate food fight, it’s evident by now that our guts are not entirely our own—they are composite organs, part-human, part-microbe, which evolved, and continue to function, as communities whose many minute members are sometimes cooperative, sometimes combative and always hungry.

A study published this week adds nuance to scientists’ evolving understanding of how gut bacteria change the way animals digest food. Ivana Semova and John Rawls of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with their colleagues, studied the absorption of fluorescent fatty acids in the intestines of tiny translucent zebrafish (Danio rerio).

 Compared to zebrafish raised in germ-free environments, zebrafish whose guts were colonized by bacteria absorbed more fat from their diets. And the more the fish ate, the larger the population of bacteria in their guts. 

In particular, eating encouraged the growth of a tribe of bacteria known as Firmicutes, which in turn increased the number of energy-rich fat bubbles stored within the fish’s intestinal cells for later use. Studies with people and mice have also shown that high-calorie diets stimulate the growth of Firmicutes in the gut, hinting that this particular group of bacteria may respond to its host’s diet in similar ways across many different species. 

What remains unclear is whether Firmicutes helps animals absorb more calories from their food in a mutually beneficial partnership or if the relationship is more complex—and sometimes less than benevolent.

Bacteria constitute between 40 and 60 percent of the dry weight of human feces, with trillions of cells in every gram. Zebrafish intestines are not home to the exact same species of bacteria that live in our own guts, but—if you take a broad enough view of the communities—they have a surprising amount of overlap. Both communities are dominated by the phyla Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes (phylum is the taxonomic level below kingdom). 

Young zebrafish are also particularly convenient for scientists who want an inside look on the digestive process because day-old zebrafish are transparent—you you can see everything that is happening in their intestines under a microscope without the need for a damaging and disruptive dissection.

Semova and Rawls chemically bonded fluorescent molecules to two common fatty acids, palmitic acid pentanoic acid, and mixed the glowing fats into the egg yolk of embryonic zebrafish. 

The intestinal cells of zebrafish that were exposed to bacteria as they developed glowed more brightly than the intestinal cells of zebrafish that were raised in sterile environments, indicating that zebrafish guts squirming with bacteria absorbed more fat. 

The intestinal cells of zebrafish with healthy populations of gut bacteria, collectively known as gut microbiota, also contained larger lipid droplets—bubbles of fat stored as expedient sources of energy.

In the presence of bacteria, zebrafish intestinal cells (red) absorb more fatty acids and package larger lipid droplets (green). Well-fed zebrafish with healthy bacterial populations package the most lipid droplets of all. Image created by Ivana Semova, UNC

The number of lipid droplets in the fish’s intestinal cells depended on their diet. 

Fish with bacteria in their guts and a steady source of food had much higher numbers of lipid droplets in their intestinal cells than fish that were denied food for a few days. 

Eating specifically promoted the growth of bacterial species in the phylum Firmicutes and this increase was not reflected by changes in the numbers of bacteria in the surrounding water. Eating changes a fish’s internal ecosystem. 

The more a zebrafish eats, the more Firmicutes in its guts. And the more Firmicutes in a zebrafish’s guts, the more efficiently its intestinal cells absorb fat.

To investigate how Firmicutes stimulates fat absorption, Semova and Rawls grew different strains of bacteria in different liquid media, which you can think of as a kind of broth. After filtering out the bacteria, they exposed baby zebrafish to the different media. 

Only media from Firmicutes significantly increased the number of lipid droplets in the fish’s intestinal cells, suggesting that whatever proteins or molecules those bacteria secreted into the media somehow enhanced fatty acid absorption. 

The results were published September 13 in Gut Host & Microbe.

These findings mirror the conclusions of many previous studies, which have shown, for example, that starving mice for a single day reduces the population of Firmicutes in their guts and that transplanting Firmicutes from obese mice into the germ-free intestines of lean mice makes the thin rodents plump.

 When obese people begin a low-fat or low-carb diet, Bacteroidetes proliferates and Firmicutes dwindles. Clearly, Firmicutes is happiest when we are eating a lot. 

One pertinent and unanswered question is whether we should share that happiness. Are Firmicutes graciously helping us extract more calories from our food, taking only a modest cut for themselves? Are they selfishly increasing their own numbers when the eating is good, forcing our cells to sweat to get the most out of our food? Are they in fact making digestion too easy, liberating so many calories from our food that we absorb far more than we need? Perhaps there is truth in all these scenarios.

“We are in the midst of a revolution of our ability to describe the composition and physiological potential of these bacterial communities,” Rawls says. “What we can begin to speculate on, though, are the different types of relationships that might be taking place. 

We know gut microbiota enhance our ability to extract calories from complex carbohydrates, which is clearly a mutually beneficial relationship. 

But it’s thought that all vertebrates have the capacity to digest and absorb other types of nutrients, such as lipids, proteins and simple carbohydrates, so it’s not readily clear how we could enter into a mutually beneficial relationship with bacteria with regard to those nutrients. 

When we see fatty acid absorption increased in zebrafish, that may be selfish or defensive response. Perhaps the fish recognizes the presence of more bacteria and increases its own fatty acid absorption. It may not always be such a friendly arrangement.”

About the Author: Ferris Jabr is an associate editor focusing on neuroscience and psychology. Follow on Twitter

Russia reveals shiny state secret: It's awash in diamonds ...

'Trillions of carats' lie below a 35-million-year-old, 62-mile-diameter asteroid crater in eastern Siberia known as Popigai Astroblem. The Russians have known about the site since the 1970s.

By Fred Weir, Correspondent / September 17, 2012

A giant Russian national flag is on display near the Kremlin in central Moscow March 6.

Thomas Peter/REUTERS


Russia has just declassified news that will shake world gem markets to their core: the discovery of a vast new diamond field containing "trillions of carats," enough to supply global markets for another 3,000 years.

Fred Weir


Fred Weir has been the Monitor's Moscow correspondent, covering Russia and the former Soviet Union, since 1998. 

The Soviets discovered the bonanza back in the 1970s beneath a 35-million-year-old, 62-mile diameter asteroid crater in eastern Siberia known as Popigai Astroblem.

They decided to keep it secret, and not to exploit it, apparently because the USSR's huge diamond operations at Mirny, in Yakutia, were already producing immense profits in what was then a tightly controlled world market.

The Soviets were also producing a range of artificial diamonds for industry, into which they had invested heavily.

The veil of secrecy was finally lifted over the weekend, and Moscow permitted scientists from the nearby Novosibirsk Institute of Geology and Mineralogy to talk about it with Russian journalists.

According to the official news agency, ITAR-Tass, the diamonds at Popigai are "twice as hard" as the usual gemstones, making them ideal for industrial and scientific uses.

The institute's director, Nikolai Pokhilenko, told the agency that news of what's in the new field could be enough to "overturn" global diamond markets.

"The resources of super-hard diamonds contained in rocks of the Popigai crypto-explosion structure, are by a factor of ten bigger than the world's all known reserves," Mr. Pokhilenko said. "We are speaking about trillions of carats. By comparison, present-day known reserves in Yakutia are estimated at one billion carats."

The type of stones at Popigai are known as "impact diamonds," which theoretically result when something like a meteor plows into a graphite deposit at high velocity. The Russians say most such diamonds found in the past have been "space diamonds" of extraterrestrial origin found in meteor craters. [Editor's note: The original version misstated the type of deposit needed to create impact diamonds.]

They claim the Popigai site is unique in the world, thus making Russia the monopoly proprietor of a resource that's likely to become increasingly important in high-precision scientific and industrial processes.

"The value of impact diamonds is added by their unusual abrasive features and large grain size," Pokhilenko told Tass. "This expands significantly the scope of their industrial use and makes them more valuable for industrial purposes."

Russian scientists say the news is likely to change the shape of global diamond markets, although the main customers for the super-hard gems will probably be big corporations and scientific institutes.

IN PICTURES: Russia's landmarks

Related stories


Will, I visited Toronto Canada over the weekend & here is my mango report:

Raul Bolanos of MEX Y CAN TRADING said the Mexican season finished earlier than normal this year

 Demand for Brazilian fruit exceeds supplies. 

The quality on the first Brazil arrivals is excellent, see these photos: 

I have seen this fruit at Loblaws in Toronto and it looked magnificent.

USA: For Every $1 Added to the Economy, Obama Added More Than $3 in Debt ...

September 17, 2012

AP Graphics

Since Obama has taken office ….
[through Q2 2012 for comparative purposes]

--> For every $1 added to the economy, we’ve added more than $3 in debt

--> added $5.23 trillion in debt vs. $1.68 trillion to the economy
--> 50% increase in debt vs. 12% increase in economic output

Total Public Debt:

$10,626T [Jan 20, 2009]
$15,856T [Jun 30, 2012]

--> $5.23 trillion increase in debt

[source: Treasury Dept]



$13,923T [Q1 2009]
$15,606T [Q2 2012]

--> $1.68 trillion increase in GDP

[source: BEA]

Read more:

Salmonella Outbreak in Mangoes May Be More Widespread than Previously Suspected ...

The FDA now warns that all mangoes bearing the "Daniella" label should be avoided.

September 16, 2012

The FDA recommends consumers check the labels on all of their mangoes. (Photo: Fotog/Getty Images)

Recently, TakePart reported that produce distributor Splendid Products issued a Salmonella recall of specific lots of its Daniella-brand mangoes after they sickened 105 people in 16 states.

This week the Food and Drug Administration discovered Salmonella contamination on the Mexican farms which grow Daniella-brand fruit. As of now, the agency is urging consumers to avoid all mangoes bearing the Daniella label―no matter their lot number― The Wall Street Journalreports.

The agency also warns that people who suspect they may have touched any of the Daniella-brand mangoes need to wash their hands thoroughly.

As a result of the FDA’s latest findings, the company known as Agricola Daniella has been placed on the agency’s import-alert list. That means the company is prohibited from importing mangoes to the U.S. unless it can prove individual shipments aren't contaminated.

Consumers should check the labels on any mangoes currently in their possession. If no labels can be found, then follow this simple FDA advice: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Symptoms of Salmonella infections include nausea, fever, and abdominal cramps, but the bacteria can be life threatening, especially for children and the elderly. For a full list of symptoms and precautions, visit the FDA’s Daniella Agricola page.

In addition to checking your labels, what other precautions do you take to insure the safety of your fruit? Let us know in the Comments.

Related Stories on TakePart:

Have We Reached Recall Fatigue?

Cantaloupe Farmer Quits After Surviving Listeria Recall This Summer

Deadly Listeria Outbreak in Imported Ricotta Cheese


A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a web editor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for Email Andri | @andritweets |

Consumer advocates worry that Americans are overloaded with recall messages...


Have We Reached Recall Fatigue?

June 20, 2012

Are you tuned in to all of the recalls happening around you? (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In the last two months, the FDA issued recalls for items that included salmonella-laced yellowfin tuna strips; organic cacao nibs that might have been contaminated with E. coli; metal fragments that found their way into some boxed pasta mix products. Eaters with serious food allergies have added worries with a list of products pulled from the shelves because of errors like undeclared eggs or milk, or cross contamination with nuts.

Simply looking at the food category alone, the FDA has issued 41 recalls since late April. Broaden the view to include pharmaceuticals, medical devices, consumer products and more, and U.S. consumers were on the receiving end of 2,363 recalls last year. That’s 6.5 recalls each day, according to a recent story in USA Today—a 14 percent jump since 2010.

Some experts say the volume is resulting in “recall fatigue” among consumers, and they’re worried.

“We have this growing concern for safety, but with there being so many recalls going on (is the public) paying attention to them and responding to them in a manner that is necessary for the recalls to be handled effectively,” Mike Rozembajgier, vice president of recalls for Stericycle ExpertRecall, told USA Today.

The increase in recalls is partly related to better oversight and testing of products. Social media has played a role as well, with consumers reaching out to companies through Twitter and Facebook.

Retailers like Costco and Wegman’s grocery store chain have recall protocols in place to help get the information to their customers, including posting recall information on their websites, and emailing customers they can track through store cards, but even then, notices can be overlooked. Recall announcements can come from many sources, federal, state or local, and food products often carry many labels. Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney who specializes in food-safety cases tells TakePart about an E. coli case he worked on in 2002.

“A cluster of 40 people got sick in July. In September or October, I got a call from another person who had E. coli that said they were part of that outbreak.”

The meat had been placed in the freezer and wasn’t consumed until later.

“I asked if they had heard about the recall, and they said yes, but that they understood the recall was for ConAgra, and their meat was from Safeway,” says Marler. “It was the same meat.”

So what’s a consumer to do? It’s important to be able to filter out what’s high risk and what’s lower risk. While a nut contamination may not harm you, for another consumer, it’s truly life threatening. Marler, who also owns Food Safety News, says his website is a good source of food recall information, and also recommends eFoodAlert and Kansas State University’s BarfBlog.

Clare Leschin-Hoar covers seafood, sustainability and food politics. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, The Wall Street Journal, Grist, Eating Well and many more.


   Monday, September 17th

Thanks everyone!

We're Shutting Down (But You Were Awesome)

My Fellow Philanthropers:
I’m sad to say that Philanthroper will be shutting down.
Obviously we’ve had operations scaled back for a while now, but as we’ve been unable to find a buyer to take the platform where it needs to go, we’ll officially be turning off the site next month.

Read more.

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BUY LOCAL: $5.99 each Local Organic Mangoes in Hawaii


Eryvan Pires, Fruitmarket:

EU: "Brazilian mango season finally starting to get going"

"The Brazilian mango season is finally starting to get going. So far 6% more mangoes have been exported from Brazil compared to the same period last year. The blooming period went according to plan. There are more volumes due to the good weather. In the Brazil there are increasing sales. It depends per variety whether or not the production has increased. Tommy and Palmer increased and the numbers of Kent and Keitt remained the same," says Eryvan Pires of Fruitmarket.

Brazil started calmly

"The main problem this year was the weak moments in the market," says the importer. The Brazilian season didn't start well this season. At the start of August the shipments to Europe started and a few weeks after that the shipments to the United States. The markets in Europe weren't quite ready and the prices were very bad. This meant that the exporters focused themselves more on the US, which paid prices over 7.00 USD from the start. It seems that the Mexican mangoes weren't a big hit in the US and that there was a strong demand for Brazilian mangoes."

"All in all this caused shortages in Europe and the prices are now starting to increase a little. At the moment the Brazilian season is normal and the quality of the products is very good. From now on I expect Brazil to give Europe more attention and more volumes to arrive."

For more information:
Eryvan Leal Pires
Fruitmarket Agribusiness BV
Lichtenauerlaan 102-120
3062ME Rotterdam, NL
Ph: +31 10 340-0125
Skype: eryvan

Publication date: 9/17/2012