From the daily archives: Monday, January 11, 2010

To The Editor:
California voters have voted twice against same sex marriage and now find their vote being challenged in California Courts in San Francisco.
The trial began today in the same region of California that ruled against the voters in 2008. The trial is slated as a turning point in the battle over marriage in the United States.
But one has to ask if the “People” have voted and their vote came to a majority how can their vote just be thrown out by Judges?  Then WHY DO WE VOTE?  Are “WE THE PEOPLE,” STILL THE GOVERNMENT in the United States or is it the Judges?
It will be an interesting next three weeks as we watch our role in government slip away from the people and into the hands of the courts.
Last December The Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to intervene. Board Chairman Wally Leimgruber said there were many reasons for the intervention. One was to protect the local voter’s decision to ban same sex marriage that passed by a 72% vote in 2008. The intent was to become a defendant in the federal case. The petition was filed, but District Judge Vaughn Walker has yet to announce his decision on the petition.
The litigation seeks to over turn the 2008 vote, saying the ballot measure, Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. The trial is expected to last 3-4 weeks. Whatever the decision by Judge Walker, it is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jim Predmore
Holtville

 

Keeping Food Safe Is Major Part of U.S. Agriculture

Holtville Farmer  Featured On CBS Documentary

(The following was part of a documentary on food safety presented by CBS news. Farmer Jack Vessey was featured as part of the broadcast.)
Where America Stands: Food Safety
Despite a decade marked by a number of food safety scares, most Americans are somewhat confident in what they eat. As Bill Whitaker reports, what can
be done to make our food safer?
“What’s it Like to Suffer from E Coli?”
Twelve-year-old, Rylee Gustafson and her mother, Kathleen Chrismer speak about Rylee’s experience while suffering from E Coli.
The U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world, but while our foods are bountiful, they’re also inconsistently regulated.  (CBS)
Stories
America’s Dwindling Water Supply
When it comes to agriculture, America is indeed the land of plenty. Foods raised here and imported from around the world provide greater abundance and choice than ever before. But while our foods are bountiful, they’re also inconsistently regulated.
The U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world, but the report card is mixed, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker. Every year 33 percent of Canadians get sick from what they eat. In the U.S., it’s 25 percent.
But in England it’s only 2 percent and in France just 1 percent. In both places food is grown more locally and on a smaller scale than in North America.
For part of the CBS News series “Where America Stands,” a recent poll found that just one in three Americans are very confident that the food they buy is safe although the vast majority are at least somewhat confident that their food is safe.

Special Report: “Where America Stands”
Safety always comes first in 12-year-old Rylee Gustafson’s kitchen.
“I need to wash my hands … I touched my jeans,” Gustafson said in her Henderson, Nev., home recently.
She, more than anyone, knows that even good food can hurt you. In 2006, on her 9th birthday, she ate a spinach salad and was infected with a virulent strain of e-coli.
“It felt like killer pain, and my organs started to shut down,” Gustafson told Whitaker.
Kathleen Chrismer, Rylee’s mother, told Whitaker that she panicked when she didn’t know what was hurting her daughter.
“You really didn’t think you were going to pull through?” Whitaker asked Gustafson.
“I really felt that bad,” she said.
She spent 35 days in the hospital on dialysis. Today she’s still wary of fresh fruits and vegetables and has a damaged heart, kidney and vocal chords.
The Problem
Her story is just one example of the problem of food safety. Over the last few years, widespread outbreaks in spinach, tomatoes, peppers and peanut products sickened thousands and killed nearly a dozen Americans.
Every year there are 76 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.
Today Americans consume more fresh produce, increasingly from imports from around the world. But imported produce is inspected even less than home-grown harvests.
“Ninety-nine percent of the food that you’re buying at the grocery store that comes from foreign coutnries has not been inspected by the FDA,” said Erik Olson, director of food and consumer product safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Olson says the Food and Drug Administration is simply not up to the task. The FDA is responsible for 80 percent of the food supply, which is everything but meat and poultry.
The number of food producers under FDA jurisdiction has increased, but the number of inspections is going down. Between 2001 and 2007, the number of domestic food producers increased from 51,000 to 65,500. At the same time, the number of producers inspected fell from 14,721 to 14,566, according to the Government Accountability Office.
“They simply do not have the tools to really protect our food supply,” Olson told Whitaker.
The Solution
So, what’s the solution? To start with, more and more farmers are creating their own rules.
Jack Vessey represents the fourth generation in his family to farm his land in Holtville, Calif., 8,000 acres of leafy greens.
After the 2006 spinach outbreak, likely caused by unsanitary field conditions, he joined a farming cooperative – the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement – which agreed to a set of voluntary standards in the field for irrigation, fertilization and sanitation, including hairnets, gloves and frequent hand-washing.
Vessey hired a food safety manager and estimates the extra cost to keep his fields contamination-free is about $250,000 a year, but another e-coli outbreak could cost farmers billions in lost sales.
“We know that for us we do the best we can to provide a safe, reliable food supply then we’re going to spend the money,” Vessey told Whitaker.
The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement has become a model for other states and other produce such as tomatoes. The cooperative sends out state inspectors for frequent, even monthly, audits.
“We’re focused on it; we have these inspectors out here, and they’re really making us do the right thing,” Vessey told Whitaker.
Another part of the solution? Science, cutting edge research around the country to find how pathogens make it onto fresh produce and how to lessen that risk. At the Center for Produce Safety on the University of California-Davis campus, Linda Harris is focusing her research on irrigation.
“It’s hard to prove, it’s hard to measure, but I really think we do make a difference,” Harris told Whitaker.
Yet another part of the solution lies in Washington. Legislation, which could be considered as soon as next month, could change the FDA’s 100-year-old mandate. It hasn’t been updated since the Great Depression.
“We are hamstrung,” Mike Taylor, a senior adviser to the FDA’s commissioner, told Whitaker. “We often find ourselves as a result in a reactive mode.”
The proposed changes include giving the FDA the ability to recall foods, which it can’t do now, access to farm and factory records, more inspectors and more funding to back it up.
“Things that will make food safer, not just regulation for regulation’s sake,” Taylor described the proposed legislation to Whitaker.
Gustafson traveled to Washington to share her story with members of Congress. She’ll probably need a kidney transplant when she’s a teenager. Until then, she just wants to see this bill pass.
“I would love to see that so people don’t have to take the risk,” Gustafson told Whitaker. “They know that it’s probably not gonna have a bacteria that’s gonna kill you or your child.”
Having safe food, she says, is not too much to ask.

 

By Mario Conde
The trial to decide the faith of Same-Sex Marriage  California  started Monday at the  9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The lawsuit was filed by gay-marriage backers and  addresses the constitutionality of Prop. 8. It is expected to have national consequences. Proposition 8 passed in 2008 where California voters decided that marriage in California should be between a man and a woman.
Representing the gay side are attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who, in 2000, argued opposite sides of the Bush/Gore “hanging chad” election debate  before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Intervening for the gay side is the city of San Francisco. Gay rights groups Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights were blocked from intervening after they angered Olson and Boies by speaking ill of the case, saying it was poorly timed and unwise. The groups do have advisory status as “friends of the court.”
The defendants in the case, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown, state health officials, and the counties of Alameda and Los Angeles, are not expected to actually defend Prop. 8, and Brown has said he agrees with Olson and Boies that it violates the U.S. Constitution.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker will be the Judge for this case. Judge Walker was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. Walker has a reputation of being a libertarian and maverick on the bench according to some analysts.
Both sides will appeal the Judge’s decisión whatever the outcome is.

 

The deadline for entries in the 2010 California Mid-Winter Fair and Fiesta will be Jan. 22 for open adult exhibits.

The entry deadline for open youth exhibits is Jan. 29.

Rules for all entries are contained in the Exhibitor Handbook, available at the main office of the Imperial Valley Expo, local chambers of commerce and on the Imperial Valley Expo’s website at ivexpo.com.

The theme of the 2010 event—which will celebrate Imperial Valley’s unique geography below sea level is “Discover Treasures Below The Sea.”

It begins Feb. 26 and runs through Marc h 7.

For questions concerning entering in the 2010 California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta, call 760.355.1181.

 
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