Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 28 June 2010

Airline Food Fails To Meet Health Standards - Biggest Threat To Your Safety Isn't The Plane's Maintenance; it's the food -

Airline Food Fails To Meet Health Standards - Biggest Threat To Your Safety Isn't The Plane's Maintenance; it's the food - 

Many Americans fear for their safety while flying, scared of the possibility of something going wrong with the plane's maintenance.

It turns out, however, the biggest safety issue you face while flying could be the food served by the airlines.

More than half a billion meals are made by some of the largest airline food kitchens in the United States. A recent analysis by some of Food and Drug Administration inspection records found that food preparation in some of these kitchens is a recipe for disaster.

Violations include roaches, mice, unsanitary conditions and no place for employees to wash their hands.

"Volume always leads to problems," said Brian Buckley of the Institute of Culinary Education. "Obviously there's not a lot of accountability."

Food preparation in all three area airports were cited for violations, including LSG Sky Chef, for food that was subject to contamination, employees not washing hands thoroughly, touching food surfaces with bare hands and failure to clean and sanitize to protect food from contamination.

When CBS 2 went to their LaGuardia Airport facility for answers, there was no comment.

A spokesperson for the company said they make 405 million meals a year and that "we have comprehensive and multilayered quality control standards in place to ensure our customers receive safe, healthy and high quality…food. And those systems are check and confirmed through a series of approximately 400 audits a year.

"I would say the FDA is woefully inadequate in most aspects of our food protection," Buckley said.

At Gate Gourmet, the FDA found they failed to keep food at safe temperatures, failed to keep equipment clean, there was no hot water for hand washing in the restroom and there were black residues in the kitchens and on the ice machine. The makers of 50 million meals said their inspections are taken very seriously and assist us in further improving our service.

According to food safety experts, the issue is a lack of oversight when it comes to cleaning and food preparation, leading to dangerous conditions for diners.

And Flying Food, which has facilities in Newark, JFK and across the US, has been cited for failure to test for dangerous microbes, not taking precautions for contamination, lack of proper hand washing facilities and lack of adequate drainage which may provide a breeding place for pests.

"We now service our JFK customers from a brand new $32 million state of the art airline catering facility that raises the bar on quality cleanliness and efficiency," the company said.

Some of the violations cited were immediately fixed while inspectors were on hand, others persisted through multiple sanitary visits.

Read more - http://wcbstv.com/topstories/airline.food.safety.2.1777603.html

EU voices concern over Egyptian blogger's death - policemen dragged him out of an Internet cafe and beat him to death

EU voices concern over Egyptian blogger's death - policemen dragged him out of an Internet cafe and beat him to death  - 

An activist carries a picture of slain Khaled Said with Arabic that reads 'Why was Khaled killed' during a protest following a press conference for the family at the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, 19 Jun 2010

The European Union on Monday expressed concern over the death of a 28-year-old man allegedly killed at the hands of Egyptian police, and called for an impartial inquiry into the matter.

"The EU Heads of Mission express their concern about the circumstances of the death of Khaled Said in Alexandria on 6 June," European ambassadors based in Cairo said in a joint statement.
According to witnesses, Said was killed when plainclothes policemen dragged him out of an Internet cafe and beat him to death on a busyAlexandria street.
Egypt's interior ministry said he had died from asphyxiation after swallowing a bag of narcotics when approached by officers.
Rights groups have rejected the official account, and Said has since become a symbol for rights activists against police brutality, for which Egypt has been criticised at home and abroad.
Following demands from Said's relatives and rights groups, Egypt's public prosecutor had ordered a second autopsy, after which he confirmed earlier police claims that Said had died after swallowing the drugs.
The European ambassadors said "they take note of the results of the second autopsy as well as of theconflicting accounts of witnesses and statements of the family of Mr Said and of human rights organisations which differ with the conclusions of the second autopsy."
"In view of these discrepancies, EU Heads of Mission welcome the declared readiness of the Egyptian authorities to conduct a judicial inquiry into this death and look forward to the inquiry being conducted impartially, transparently and swiftly in a way that will credibly resolve the discrepancies," they said.
"EU Heads of Mission are confident that the Egyptian authorities will investigate allegations of abuse by police effectively and prosecute offenders," they said.
Disturbing images of Said's battered and bruised face have appeared on social networking websites, sparking public outcry and condemnation from local and international rights groups.

RBS tells clients to prepare for 'monster' money-printing by the Federal Reserve -

RBS tells clients to prepare for 'monster' money-printing by the Federal Reserve -

As recovery starts to stall in the US and Europe with echoes of mid-1931, bond experts are once again dusting off a speech by Ben Bernanke given eight years ago as a freshman governor at the Federal Reserve.

Entitled "Deflation: Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Here", it is a warfare manual for defeating economic slumps by use of extreme monetary stimulus once interest rates have dropped to zero, and implicitly once governments have spent themselves to near bankruptcy.
The speech is best known for its irreverent one-liner: "The US government has a technology, called a printing press, that allows it to produce as many US dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost."

Bernanke began putting the script into action after the credit system seized up in 2008, purchasing $1.75 trillion of Treasuries, mortgage securities, and agency bonds to shore up the US credit system. He stopped far short of the $5 trillion balance sheet quietly pencilled in by the Fed Board as the upper limit for quantitative easing (QE).
Investors basking in Wall Street's V-shaped rally had assumed that this bizarre episode was over. So did the Fed, which has been shutting liquidity spigots one by one. But the latest batch of data is disturbing.
The ECRI leading indicator produced by the Economic Cycle Research Institute plummeted yet again last week to -6.9, pointing to contraction in the US by the end of the year. It is dropping faster that at any time in the post-War era.
The latest data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau shows that world trade slid 1.7pc in May, with the biggest fall in Asia. The Baltic Dry Index measuring freight rates on bulk goods has dropped 40pc in a month. This is a volatile index that can be distorted by the supply of new ships, but those who watch it as an early warning signal for China and commodities are nervous.
Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS, is advising clients to read the Bernanke text very closely because the Fed is soon going to have to the pull the lever on "monster" quantitative easing (QE)".
"We cannot stress enough how strongly we believe that a cliff-edge may be around the corner, for the global banking system (particularly in Europe) and for the global economy. Think the unthinkable," he said in a note to investors.
Roberts said the Fed will shift tack, resorting to the 1940s strategy of capping bond yields around 2pc by force majeure said this is the option "which I personally prefer".
A recent paper by the San Francisco Fed argues that interest rates should now be minus 5pc under the bank's "rule of thumb" measure of capacity use and unemployment. The rate is currently minus 2pc when QE is factored in. You could conclude, very crudely, that the Fed must therefore buy another $2 trillion of bonds, and even more if Europe's EMU debacle goes from bad to worse. I suspect that this hints at the Bernanke view, but it is anathema to hardliners at the Kansas, Richmond, Philadephia, and Dallas Feds.
Societe Generale's uber-bear Albert Edwards said the Fed and other central banks will be forced to print more money whatever they now say, given the "stinking fiscal mess" across the developed world. "The response to the coming deflationary maelstrom will be additional money printing that will make the recent QE seem insignificant," he said.
Despite the apparent rift with Europe, the US is arguably tightening fiscal policy just as hard. Congress has cut off benefits for those unemployed beyond six months, leaving 1.3m without support. California has to slash $19bn in spending this year, as much as Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Hungary, and Romania combined. The states together must cut $112bn to comply with state laws.
The Congressional Budget Office said federal stimulus from the Obama package peaked in the first quarter. The effect will turn sharply negative by next year as tax rises automatically kick in, a net swing of 4pc of GDP. This is happening as the US housing market tips into a double-dip. New homes sales crashed 33pc to a record low of 300,000 in May after subsidies expired.
It is sobering that zero rates, QE a l'outrance, and an $800bn fiscal blitz should should have delivered so little. Just as it is sobering that Club Med bond purchases by the European Central Bank and the creation of the EU's €750bn rescue "shield" have failed to stabilize Europe's debt markets. Greek default contracts reached an all-time high of 1,125 on Friday even though the €110bn EU-IMF rescue is up and running. Are investors questioning EU solvency itself, or making a judgment on German willingness to back pledges with real money?
Clearly we are nearing the end of the "Phoney War", that phase of the global crisis when it seemed as if governments could conjure away the Great Debt. The trauma has merely been displaced from banks, auto makers, and homeowners onto the taxpayer, lifting public debt in the OECD bloc from 70pc of GDP to 100pc by next year. As the Bank for International Settlements warns, sovereign debt crises are nearing "boiling point" in half the world economy.
Fiscal largesse had its place last year. It arrested the downward spiral at a crucial moment, but that moment has passed. There is a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. The Krugman doctrine of perma-deficits is ruinous - and has in fact ruined Japan. The only plausible escape route for the West is a decade of fiscal austerity offset by helicopter drops of printed money, for as long as it takes.
Some say that the Fed's QE policies have failed. I profoundly disagree. The US property market - and therefore the banks - would have imploded if the Fed had not pulled down mortgage rates so aggressively, but you can never prove a counter-factual.
The case for fresh QE is not to inflate away the debt or default on Chinese creditors by stealth devaluation. It is to prevent deflation.
Bernanke warned in that speech eight years ago that "sustained deflation can be highly destructive to a modern economy" because it leads to slow death from a rising real burden of debt.
At the time, the broad money supply war growing at 6pc and the Dallas Fed's `trimmed mean' index of core inflation was 2.2pc.
We are much nearer the tipping today. The M3 money supply has contracted by 5.5pc over the last year, and the pace is accelerating: the 'trimmed mean' index is now 0.6pc on a six-month basis, the lowest ever. America is one twist shy of a debt-deflation trap.
There is no doubt that the Fed has the tools to stop this. "Sufficient injections of money will ultimately always reverse a deflation," said Bernanke. The question is whether he can muster support for such action in the face of massive popular disgust, a Republican Fronde in Congress, and resistance from the liquidationsists at the Kansas, Philadelphia, and Richmond Feds. If he cannot, we are in grave trouble.

International Space Station sex ban - after four women in orbit for the first time, 3 female crew joining 1 woman already -

International Space Station sex ban - after four women in orbit for the first time, 3 female crew joining 1 woman already - 

"We are a group of professionals," said Alan Poindexter, a NASA commander, during a visit to Tokyo, when asked about the consequences if astronauts boldly went where no others have been.
"We treat each other with respect and we have a great working relationship. Personal relationships are not ... an issue," said a serious-faced Mr Poindexter. "We don't have them and we won't."

Mr Poindexter and his six crew members, including the first Japanese mother in space Naoko Yamazaki, were in Tokyo to talk about their two-week resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The April voyage broke new ground by putting four women in orbit for the first time, with three female crew joining one woman already on the station.
Sexual intercourse in space may appear out of bounds, but astronauts have been known to succumb to earthly passions.