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News on Parade

January 3, 2011 – Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year! It promises to be an eventful one, that’s for sure. Let’s take a look at items in the news.

“Blizzard is ‘Budget Buster’ for Cities” – This is why it would have made a lot of sense not to waste money on wars that should never have been fought in the first place. This is why we need to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan pronto. Cities up and down the East Coast were walloped first with snow, then cleaning up the snow, then paying for the cleanup. It was a dreadful December. Snow removal cost Danbury, CT $450K for just one storm. Apparently the fact that this major storm occurred on a Sunday made it hurt that much more: even NYC is having trouble forking out the overtime. Most cities had to put their entire public works departments out on the streets AND hire outside contractors, to boot. Cranston, RI, Ridgefield, CT, and Rahway, NJ, were all struggling to begin with, because of the recession. Big-time snow removal means no money for mowing the grass, come spring.

“Residents Evacuated in Australia Amid Lengthy Flood Forecast” – Not everyone is contending with too much snow, however. Thirteen townships in Queensland, Australia have been evacuated because of a record-setting monsoon. The forecast is a dreary one: weeks of rain yet to come. The Fitzroy River crested last Friday at the record level of 53.2 feet. Needless to say, that is a record that may not stand for long. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the flooding is the worst she’s ever seen, due to both the amount of rain, and the number of communities affected.

“Gas Prices: Bracing for More Pain at the Pump” – I don’t know about where you live, but gas prices in Cincinnati are on their way up. The difference this time is that they won’t be coming back down. China has been unleashed, and they’re roaring for more – as much more as they can lay their hands on. Heard the rumors about $5/gallon gas? With the competition China and India will offer, the price can head in only one direction. Airplane tickets have risen in cost, too. The history-making blizzards in Europe cost airlines a bundle. Is the United States the only country feeling the pinch? Hardly.

“Bolivians Protest Fuel Price Increases” – This situation was just not handled at all well. Regular gas cost $1.97 per gallon a month ago in Bolivia. Today it costs $3.42. Diesel prices rose from $1.90 to $3.61. This is the largest gas price increase in 30 years. The countries that surround Bolivia have taken advantage of its previously low prices by filling their tanks in Bolivia, then heading for home. Not anymore. The population at large in Bolivia is loaded for bear, and at all socio-economic levels. Too big an increase over too short a time.

And in other news …

“Parsley, Cilantro Recall Expanded to Include Other Vegetables” – Nineteen other types of produce have been added to the recall by J&D Produce of Edinburg, Texas. Regulators and health officials in the US and Canada have increased inspections at J&D facilities. Other measures being employed in this fight against salmonella poisoning include stopping and sanitizing all production lines, adding manual inspections, increased product rinsing, and bringing in consultants. (I just recently contracted salmonella poisoning from a bad egg; it was a mild case, producing only a tummy ache.) Mass production is the culprit, folks.

“President to Sign Historic Food Safety Bill, Reforming FDA” – One of the many pieces of legislation making up the historic lame duck session of Congress just ended. The bill enjoyed broad support from both consumer and industry groups. Under the authority of the new law, the FDA can now mandate a recall of food it believes to be contaminated. (Until now, the FDA could only urge producers to issue a recall.) In addition, food producers must develop food safety plans, and must have their facilities federally inspected more often. Imported foods will have to meet higher standards, and there will be improved surveillance of food poisoning outbreaks. Your government at work. No – really!!

With thanks to CNN and the Center for Science in the Public Interest for their coverage of these stories.

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