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Our World Is In Peril, How Do You Cope?

1 Jun

I am someone who longs for world peace. Perhaps you are, too. But every single day our world spends more than $4 billion on war. The last hundred years have been by far the bloodiest in human history.

I support human rights and human dignity. I want every child to grow up healthy and strong. No doubt you do, too. But today, like every day, 20,000 children will die of hunger and poverty. Even in the world’s wealthiest country, the U.S., nearly 25 percent of children live below the poverty line.

I believe in upholding the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people. I believe in the inherent worth of every human being. But we live in a time of grotesque inequalities. There are shoe companies who pay famous athletes $20 million to endorse their shoes, while paying their workers only 20 cents an hour to make them. The CEOs of some companies make more money in an hour than many of the company’s employees make in a year.

Many of the world’s spiritual traditions teach that inner peace is found when you love the world as it is, rather than faulting it for not living up to your expectations. But our addictions are not only damaging our spirits, they are also causing irreparable harm to the biosphere and to humanity’s future.

I believe in holding a positive attitude toward life. But the rate at which forests are disappearing, coral reefs are deteriorating, the arctic ice cap is melting, and species are going extinct is undermining the capacity of the earth to support human life.

I draw strength from my kinship with animals. Some of my best friends have had four legs. Perhaps you, too, have had a relationship with an animal that has enriched you as a human being. But today, almost all of our meat and dairy products come from animals raised under conditions of horrific cruelty.

There are so many kinds of pain and loss in our times. There is illness and financial stress, there is growing unemployment and homelessness, there are oil spills and terrorists. It can seem that our little flickering candles of faith are no match for the hurricane winds of destruction and despair the world can so relentlessly blow our way. There are things happening in our world today that must make the angels weep.

Here’s what I believe. If you are going to face the suffering and destruction of life, and if you want to find a way to be effective and positive in response, you must also be open to the life affirming powers of creativity and joy.

It can sometimes seem that we are on a planetary death march, and yet we are also living in an age of miracles. Some are so common we often take them for granted. There is the miracle of color and the miracle of music. There is the miracle of tears and the miracle of laughter. There is the miracle of breathing and the miracle of sunsets. There is the miracle of people continuing to strive for a happier world even in the face of devastation and grief.

At this very moment, people are learning new ways to communicate, to understand each other, and to resolve conflicts. Right now, people are learning to read, while others are writing poetry, and others are dancing and singing. With every breath you take, relationships are growing, new health-giving practices are being discovered, ancient feuds are being overcome, and people are finding ways to restore their connections to the living earth. At this moment, as in every moment, ever growing numbers of people are working for a better world for themselves and for all children, now and yet to come.

We are not done. Our despair is not meant to destroy us but to awaken new life in us. Our wounds can give us depth, empathy and understanding. Our hardships can be places where we meet others and grow.

Yes, there is ugliness, which is why it matters when we bring beauty. Yes, there is great suffering, so let us live with great compassion.

This is what I have to say at this time in history. There are forces at work in the human psyche that are destructive and unconscious. And yet there is also something in us that is wondrous, that touches the infinite and belongs to the sacred.

Let us stand for this. Our dreams and prayers are rooted in something greater than the forces of death. Our grief and fury at the world’s brutalities are part of our awakening. There is something mysterious taking place in this world that is part of our healing.

With all its delusions and broken dreams, our world today is still a place where our hearts can meet and grow wings. There is horror and agony here, yes, and it is at times overwhelming. But there are also countless opportunities for the illumination of beauty and the awakening of love.

We are not done. There are sources of joy here, and we are here to protect them and cherish them.

We are not done. We can still make our lives into works of art. We can still create thriving, just and sustainable ways of life.

Bitter winds are howling. Let them howl. We can shelter each other and put our little flames together. Maybe we will yet find that the pain we feared would destroy us rather brings us back to what gives us life.

We are here to live, not merely survive. We are here to fully express and celebrate the gifts we each have to give to the world, and to receive the gifts that others have to give to us, as well.

Let us touch with love the inevitable suffering in our lives, and in the lives of those we meet. Let us tend with tender mercy that which is dying in us and in our world. And let us welcome the new life dawning in each of our souls.

We who are alive, with breath in our bodies and love in our hearts, have so very much to be thankful for. In all that takes place over the course of our lives, may we never lose track of our capacity for joy. And may we never forget the power of the choices we make.

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U.S. facing ‘grievous harm’ from chemicals in air, food, water, panel says

1 Jun

An expert panel that advises the president on cancer said Thursday that Americans are facing “grievous harm” from chemicals in the air, food and water that have largely gone unregulated and ignored.

The President’s Cancer Panel called for a new national strategy that focuses on such threats in the environment and workplaces.

Epidemiologists have long maintained that tobacco use, diet and other factors are responsible for most cancers, and that chemicals and pollutants cause only a small portion — perhaps 5 percent.

The presidential panel said that figure has been “grossly underestimated” but it did not provide a new estimate.

“With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented through appropriate national action,” the panel wrote in a report released Thursday.

Federal chemical laws are weak, funding for research and enforcement is inadequate, and regulatory responsibilities are split among too many agencies, the panel found.

Children are particularly vulnerable because they are smaller and are developing faster than adults, the panel found. The report noted unexplained rising rates of some cancers in children, and it referred to recent studies that have found industrial chemicals in umbilical-cord blood, which supplies nutrients to fetuses. “To a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted,’ ” the panel wrote.

Health officials lack critical knowledge about the health impact of chemicals on fetuses and children, the report said.

In addition, the government’s standards for safe chemical exposure in workplaces are outdated, it said.

In 2009, about 1.5 million American men, women and children had cancer diagnosed, and 562,000 people died from the disease.

“There are far too many known and suspected cancer-causing chemicals in products people, young and old, use every day of their lives,” said Kenneth A. Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy group. “Many of these chemicals are believed to be time bombs, altering the genetic-level switching mechanisms that lead to cancerous cellular growth in later life.”

The panel said the country needs to overhaul existing chemical laws, a conclusion that has been supported by public health groups, environmental advocates, the Obama administration and even the chemical industry.

The current system places the burden on the government to prove that a chemical is unsafe before it can removed from the market. The standards are so high, the government has been unable to ban chemicals such as asbestos, a widely recognized carcinogen that is prohibited in many other countries.

About 80,000 chemicals are in commercial use in the United States, but federal regulators have assessed only about 200 for safety.

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U.S. culture of greed is threat to world

1 Jun

The world is doomed to environmental catastrophe unless the threat posed by U.S. consumption culture is directly addressed, warns the Worldwatch Institute’s annual report.

“Until we recognise that our environmental problems, from climate change to deforestation to species loss, are driven by unsustainable habits, we will not be able to solve the ecological crises that threaten to wash over civilization,” said project director Erik Assadourian.

The report, produced by a team of 35 researchers, notes that the average U.S. resident consumes more than his or her weight in products every single day. The average family in a Western nation spends more money on its pet in one year than a human being in Bangladesh does on all his or her expenses.

Such consumption habits are spreading around the globe at a frightening pace, the report notes. China has now surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest market for personal automobiles, while excess has become a mark of cultural status in countries as far-flung as Brazil and India. Global consumption of goods and services has increased 28 percent in the last 10 years alone, to a whopping $30.5 trillion.

The report refutes the claim that increased consumption is a natural result of economic growth, noting that corporations have deliberately sought to convince consumers to purchase resource-intensive but unnecessary products. It cites the worldwide popularity of bottled water and hamburgers, the latter of which was considered an undesireable food in the early 1900s.

Without addressing the worldwide culture of consumption, policy changes can only go so far to avert global catastrophe, the report warns.

“We’ve seen some encouraging efforts to combat the world’s climate crisis in the past few years,” Assadourian said. “But making policy and technology changes while keeping cultures centred on consumerism and growth can only go so far. If we don’t shift our very culture there will be new crises we have to face.”

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Dirty, contaminated beef fed to children through school lunch programs

1 Jun

The USDA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently issued a shocking report (…) about the condition of the nation’s industrial meat supply. It turns out that a lot of the U.S. meat supply is tainted with veterinary drugs, pesticides and heavy metals.

According to the report, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, continues to fail at properly monitoring the safety of the nation’s meat supply. So tainted meat is regularly being approved for sale, much of which ends up in school lunch rooms where it is fed to — guess who? — our children!

What’s truly disturbing about this is that the USDA knows why meat it getting tainted but it’s doing nothing about it. In fact, the agency regularly allows toxic meat to make its way to store shelves without even trying to stop it.

We’re not talking about microbial pathogens here; we’re talking about chemical contaminants that cattle are eating and then passing on to consumers. These contaminants are not cooked off like pathogens are, and they can actually intensify when cooked and become more harmful.

Pathogens vs. Chemical Contaminants

It is important to make this distinction between pathogens like E. coli versus chemical residues like pharmaceutical drugs and heavy metals. The public usually thinks about food contamination in terms of pathogens but often doesn’t consider the chemical contamination.

The types of contaminants that are ending up in meat are things like veterinary drugs and antibiotics that industrial agriculture uses to keep animals from dying before slaughter. You see, industrial farming is so filthy and unnatural that animals raised there wouldn’t stand a chance without a steady stream of drugs to keep them alive.

The irony about the excess use of drugs and antibiotics is that these things actually end up causing the diseases they are meant to treat and prevent. But the conditions in which these animals live are typically so horrendous that they probably wouldn’t make it to the slaughter without these toxic chemical interventions.

Why aren’t the regulatory agencies doing their job?

This is the same question being asked by OIG in its audit report. The FSIS is tasked with heading up the national residue program with the help of the FDA and EPA, but none of these agencies are actually doing their jobs.

These agencies are supposed to work together to establish tolerance levels for various pesticides, drugs and toxins in an effort to minimize their presence in the food. But according to the report, the agencies have not even established thresholds for many of the dangerous substances being found in meat, let alone test for them.

The agencies did jointly establish a Surveillance Advisory Team (SAT) and an Interagency Residue Control Group (IRCG) to help them accomplish program goals, but since none of them have actually committed to realistically achieving these goals, the whole program has basically gone nowhere.

If it’s broken, blame someone else

So which agency is actually at fault for the meat safety failures? Well, it depends on which agency you ask. They all blame each other.

Every year, the SAT is supposed to bring together the FDA, EPA and FSIS to establish which residues they will test for that year. But each year, no matter what has been agreed upon, the FSIS continues to test for only one type of pesticide.

According to the EPA, the FSIS is refusing its requests to test for more pesticides. The FSIS, however, claims that the EPA has not established tolerances for many of those pesticides, so it can’t test for them (while also insisting that it just doesn’t have enough resources to do the testing).

For items that do get tested, the FSIS relies on the FDA to approve proper testing methods. However the FDA only wants to use testing methods that are old and outdated. When newer, better methods are recommended, the FDA is often unwilling or unable to use them.

The methods of these various agencies often conflict with one another, which is why the SAT was established in the first place. It was meant to be the coordinator of the three agencies to help them communicate and get the job done. But instead of coordinating, it seems to exist more as a formality while the three blame each other for not getting anything done.

The agencies are generally run so poorly and corruptly that it is surprising they get anything done at all. The only things they seem to have time to do is harass supplement makers and shut down raw milk producers, all while turning a blind eye to the industry players that are really causing most of the problems.

Dirty secrets of the meat industry

According to the report, meat plant violations are not a big deal to the FSIS. The agency routinely allows plants that are in violation to continue operating.

In 2008, one meat plant had over 200 violations, but the FSIS still classified the violations as “not reasonably likely to occur” and allowed the plant to continue operating as usual — business as usual in the meat industry, eh?

The meat industry gets away with a lot, and the things it gets away with are no small matter. Take, for instance, the practice of cow “recycling”. When a cow gets too old or sick to produce milk, she is handed over to a slaughter facility to be turned into meat. (The industry term for these animals is “spent” dairy cows).

Why is this a problem? According to the report, the plants that process spent dairy cows represent over 90 percent of the residue violations discovered in a 2008 investigation.

These same plants also process “bob” veal, or male calves that are born to dairy cows. Dairy cows are given large amounts of antibiotics after they birth calves in order to treat birth-related infections. Since dairy producers are required to wait a certain amount of time after administering the drugs before using their milk for human consumption, they just go ahead and feed the tainted milk to the bob veal calves in order not to “waste” it.

Since the drugs never got a chance to clear out of the system, it eventually ends up in the veal meat at the store. So when you eat veal meat, you’re essentially eating bovine antibiotics.

And if the calves’ mothers don’t recovery quickly enough with the antibiotics, the producer may sell them off to be slaughtered before they die. That way they will at least make some money off those cows. Unfortunately, this results in even more antibiotics going into the beef food chain.

Ethanol waste being used as food

Hold on to your (cowboy) hats… it doesn’t stop there. Farmers are now actually feeding livestock the industrial waste that is left over after corn is turned into ethanol fuel. It’s not enough that industrial producers are recycling old, sick animals for human consumption, but now they are feeding them toxic bio-sludge as well.

Of course they’ve given the sludge a politically-correct name, “distillers’ grains”, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is a waste byproduct that is harmful to animals forced to eat it.

The USDA has known since 2008 that animals who eat distillers’ grains are more likely to harbor dangerous pathogens like E. coli, but has stated that it would not regulate the use of distillers’ grains as cattle feed.

Since the ethanol fermentation process requires a lot of antibiotics to control it, antibiotic residues are plentiful in distillers’ grains. And not only that, distillers’ grains are loaded with mycotoxins linked to an oxidative imbalance in pigs called Mulberry Heart Disease (MHD) that can cause them to die suddenly.

No wonder pigs are sicker than ever; they’re being fed toxic waste as food! But large hog producers don’t really care because it saves them money, and the USDA doesn’t care because, well, they basically represent the interests of the animal slaughter industry (the pork, beef and chicken industries).

As long as the ethanol producers are happy, the hog producers are happy, and enough organizations continue to sing the praises of distillers’ grains, then there’s no need to protect the public from the dangers of the tainted end result, it seems. Nobody will notice, right?

These are just a few of the many violations that the FSIS, FDA and EPA seem unconcerned about. And this isn’t merely my personal opinion: These things are stated in the report itself as fact.

Nothing to see here, folks, just move along

The casual way in which the USDA report highlights the failures and gives lip service to fixing them would be humorous if it didn’t have such disastrous consequences. For example, much of this meat ends up in the public schools.

The tainted meat usually comes from low-grade providers, so schools are quick to snatch it up and feed it to children because it’s dirt cheap. And fortunately, it’s labeled, “Suitable for human consumption.”

Millions of American children, who are still in their developmental stages, are eating cheeseburgers filled with antibiotics, pharmaceutical drugs and toxic chemicals — all thanks to the greed of powerful industries and the inexcusable depth of corruption within agricultural regulatory agencies.

This tainted meat also makes its way to grocery stores, big-box warehouses and even restaurants. Anywhere you’re buying hamburger meat (or just hamburgers), you’re likely to be chowing down on meat laced with toxic chemicals, antibiotics and other pharmaceutical drugs.

Yet, amazingly, these issues are never addressed publicly. The general public has no idea that industrial meat contains a cocktail of dangerous toxins. They have no clue that the regulatory agencies that are supposed to be protecting them can’t even properly communicate with each other, let alone protect the public. Most people have no idea just how bad things really are.

Whenever there is a recall, nobody talks about why the meat got tainted or how it managed to pass by regulators without being stopped. There is never a discussion about the underlying flaws in the meat system itself that encourage contamination. Instead, regulators unleash a chorus of whining over how underfunded they are and how everything would be fixed if the entire food supply was simply irradiated before hitting store shelves.

Except irradiation doesn’t destroy heavy metals and pharmaceuticals. It only makes the meat appear to be safe in the short term because it doesn’t make anybody sick the very next day.

Food “safety” laws will only make things worse

The response to food contamination has been to devise food “safety” bills that experts claim will solve the problems of the food system. But a closer look reveals that the bills actually do more to eliminate the good guys than to punish the bad guys.

Just last summer, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2749, the “Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009” and a Senate version of the bill is likely to be voted on this summer.

But these food safety bills don’t actually make food any safer.

Basically these bills will give more power to agencies like the FDA (who are already failing at their current tasks) while greatly increasing the regulatory burdens on small growers and ranchers who produce high-quality, safe food. Such bills completely avoid addressing the root causes of food contamination and instead create larger bureaucracies with more unchecked power that will only be unleashed against small operators rather than agro-industry giants.

The idea is utterly insane, but as long as it claims to deal with “food safety”, most people will blindly accept it as something good. After all, the politicians and the corporations that sponsor them wouldn’t lie to us, would they? (Chuckle…)

So how can food really be made safer?

The entire food system itself will have to be radically reformed in order to truly make food safe. Mass-produced food that’s factory-made by corporate conglomerates will never be the kind of thing we truly wish to feed our children. Government subsidies for cash crops must end. Policies that favor Big Agribusiness while destroying smaller growers and ranchers must be reversed.

It’s important for us all to oppose any and all food “safety” bills that threaten to eliminate the very operations that produce safe food. Protections for local and family farms must be present in any legislation, otherwise they will be forced out of business. The Cornucopia Institute is doing a lot of great work in this area, so be sure to check their website for regular updates:

Conscious consumers must also start seeking alternative sources of food that are not produced out of the current corrupt system. Local farms, food cooperatives and community supported agriculture (CSA) are great sources of safe food, and they offer the opportunity to develop a relationship with the people who raise the food.

You can also choose to grow your own food at home. Whether urban or rural, there are workable solutions to raising your own food at home, regardless of your situation. Even those who don’t have any yard space can grow sprouts on a kitchen counter. (That’s food, too!)

Knowing the source of your food and how it has been raised is crucial to ensuring food safety for yourself and your family. And remember: You vote with your dollars. It’s up to you to choose food products from small, local growers rather than the corporate agro-giants that would much prefer to just shove their dirty, contaminated beef down your throat at every meal.

Cheeseburger, anyone?

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Yummy Vegan Cheesecake

1 Jun

I have not tried this specific recipe, but I have tried a awesome vegan cheese cake, so give this a try and let me know how it goes, I mean you can’t really go wrong with a vegan cheese cake!


16 graham cinnamon graham crackers, crumbled
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1 tablespoon light Karo syrup
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
16 oz. Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1/3 cup sugar (or fructose)
4 EnerG egg substitute “eggs”
1 teaspoon vanilla
juice of one lemon
Ah!Laska vegan chocolate syrup
fresh raspberries


Crust:  Combine graham crackers, margarine (adjust amount as needed), Karo syrup, and flour in a bowl.  Mix by hand and press firmly into a round pan.

Filling: Combine “cream cheese”, sugar, “eggs”, vanilla, and lemon juice in a blender and blend until creamy and smooth.  Pour onto crust.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes, until set (doesn’t jiggle when you move the pan).  Let cool.  Place in refrigerator and chill for 12 hours.

Topping:  You may use any kind of topping such as strawberries in syrup, chocolate, vegan whipped cream, etc.  My personal favorite is drizzling the cheesecake in Ah!Laska vegan chocolate syrup and adding fresh raspberries.  Mmm!

Serves: 8-10

Preparation time: 30 min.

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