Mafia, Mozzarella, Dioxin and Brucellosis

If you asked ‘what is the link?’ I am going to tell you right away.

Let’s start by saying that mozzarella is a big and profitable business in Italy, with an annual turnover of $500 million. Out of 33,000 tonnes of mozzarella cheese produced each year, about 16% is exported.
The water buffalo herds, the source of milk for making mozzarella, are concentrated around the city of Naples, in the Campania region.
The Naples mafia, or Camorra, is heavily involved in waste disposal in the Campania region around the city of Naples (Do you remember Tony Soprano’s main business? Waste disposal, right?), on agricultural land used for pasture.
Toxic waste contaminates buffalos’ food. The result?
In about two weeks interval, Italy was confronted with two problems: Brucellosis – found in herds- and dioxins- found in mozzarella cheese.

First problem: Brucellosis
Brucellosis is an illness characterized by fever, night sweats, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite, weight loss, headache, and arthralgia (pain in the joints). It is caused by an infection with bacteria of one of the Brucella species. The infection occurs worldwide. Areas currently listed as high risk are the Mediterranean Basin (Portugal, Spain, Southern France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, North Africa), South and Central America, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.
Anyone can get brucellosis if they are infected with bacteria of one of the Brucella species. Persons at highest risk for brucellosis are those who work with animals that are infected, such as veterinarians and ranchers, and persons who consume raw milk or cheeses or ice cream made with raw milk.
Brucellosis is spread to humans through contact with tissues or bodily fluids of animals who are infected with Brucella bacteria, and although direct person-to-person spread of brucellosis is extremely rare. Mothers who are breast-feeding may transmit the infection to their infants. It can also be transmitted through food to humans, causing severe intermittent fever – though the milk which produces the cheese is perfectly safe when it is pasteurized.

A preventive measure to avoid being infected with Brucella bacteria is to not consume raw milk or anything made with raw milk.
Treatment for Brucellosis: antibiotics.
Usually, doxycycline and rifampin are used in combination for 6 weeks to prevent reoccurring infection. Depending on the timing of treatment and severity of illness, recovery may take a few weeks to several
months. Mortality is low (<2%), and is usually associated with endocarditis

According to Italian papers, the Brucella bacteria had been present in herds for the past 10 years, spreading to about 30% of them, and the local vets who are supposed to test and put down infected animals have been intimidated by the Camorra – who also controls some of the farms. As an extreme measure, the Italian government will start the slaughter of 32,000 buffalo, infected with Brucellosis. In the coming weeks, armed police will accompany government vets to help with the cull and it’s going to cost Italian government closer to $97 million.

Second problem: Dioxin
Most people heard about dioxins in relation to the plastic containers heated in microwave (myth or not, it’s not up to debate right now)
Dioxin is the name generally given to a class of super-toxic chemicals, the chlorinated dioxins and furans, formed as a by-product of the manufacture, molding, or burning of organic chemicals and plastics that contain chlorine. It is the nastiest, most toxic man-made organic chemical; its toxicity is second only to radioactive waste.
Dioxin is a powerful hormone disrupting chemical. By binding to a cell’s hormone receptor, it literally modifies the functioning and genetic mechanism of the cell, causing a wide range of effects, from cancer to reduced immunity to nervous system disorders to miscarriages and birth deformity. Because it literally changes the functioning of your cells, the effects can be very obvious or very subtle. Because it changes gene functions, it can cause so-called genetic diseases to appear, and can interfere with child development. There is no “threshold” dose – the tiniest amount can cause damage, and our bodies have no defense against it.
Dioxin accumulates in the fat cells of the animals, and re-appears in meat and milk. Dioxin is virtually indestructible in most environments, and is excreted by the body extremely slowly.

The contamination in mozzarella cheese emerged during checks last week. Dioxins were found at higher than permitted levels at some mozzarella producers.
The French agriculture ministry on Friday ordered shops to withdraw the imported buffalo mozzarella as a precautionary measure. But it later reversed the decision.
Italy says it has traced the farms at the source of the contamination, and destroyed their milk.
Japan and South Korea imposed an import ban on the cheese.
Italian officials told the European Commission that 130 mozzarella production sites had been checked and dioxins above the EU limit had been found at 25 of them- which I would say it’s pretty scary, considering that it’s almost a quarter of the total production sites.

To be objective, we have to mention that dioxins could be found not only in mozzarella, but also in beef and pork, and this, only if we don’t want to touch the subject of many chemicals around us that we are happily using without realizing how much damage they bring to our health, among them chlorine bleach and all the bleached products, including food like flour (that’s exactly the reason for buying unbleached flour).

Monks disrupt Tibet media visit

This morning, while driving to work, I heard a piece of news about Tibet along with a cry and Tibetan words.
A monk was crying! According to the news, Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital protested against Chinese rule during an official conference for foreign journalists put on by the Chinese authorities.

“Foreign journalists were expelled from Tibet at the height of the unrest, but on Wednesday China allowed a group of about two dozen reporters into Lhasa for a three-day escorted visit.
The BBC’s request to be included in the group was turned down.

The monks’ protest came as they toured the Jokhang Temple – one of Tibet’s holiest shrines.

One monk shouted “Tibet is not free, Tibet is not free” before he started to cry, an AP journalist at the scene, Charles Hutzler, reported.

Another monk said the rioting on 14 March “had nothing to do with the Dalai Lama”.

The monks said they had not been allowed to leave the temple since the rioting.

Government handlers told the journalists to leave and tried to pull them away, the reporter said.

Later, the area around the Jokhang Temple was sealed off by riot police.

The protests began on 10 March and developed into violent rioting in Lhasa before spreading to neighbouring regions.

China says 19 people were killed by rioters. The Tibetan government-in-exile says about 140 people have been killed in a crackdown by Chinese security forces.

‘Divided city’

The group of journalists has also visited a medical clinic and a clothing store, where Chinese authorities say five girls were trapped and burned to death, AP’s reporter added.
A reporter for the London-based Financial Times, meanwhile, said that the Tibetan quarter of the city resembled a war zone, with burnt-out buildings, shuttered businesses and groups of soldiers on every corner.

“The smell of burning buildings still hangs in the air nearly two weeks after violent rioting swept through the old Tibetan quarter of Lhasa,” the Financial Times’s Geoff Dyer reported.

The rioting appeared to have been more prolonged and destructive than previously thought, he wrote.

Charles Hutzler described to the BBC a city divided.

“In sort of the more recently built up, very Chinese part of Lhasa, life seems to be going on fairly normally,” he said.

“But in the older, Tibetan section of the town and the blocks leading to it we could see the remains of burnt-out buildings.”

The reporters said there was a heavy security presence in the Tibetan quarter, with squads of police and soldiers on every corner.

But in the new town, they described life as returning to a semblance of normality, with shops and restaurants busy with customers.

Treading carefully

On Wednesday, US President George Bush had “encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

But the fact that it has taken Mr Bush this long to talk directly to Mr Hu shows that the US is treading carefully in its response, says the BBC’s Jonathan Beale in Washington.

Despite calls from rights groups for an Olympic boycott, the White House has already made it clear that Mr Bush will still attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games”

Story from BBC NEWS

“Protesting monks dash China’s show of peace in Tibet

By Charles Hutzler
A GROUP of monks overturned a carefully orchestrated visit for foreign reporters to Tibet’s capital, an embarrassment for the Chinese government struggling yesterday to prove Lhasa was calm.
The government had arranged the trip to show how peaceful Lhasa was after riots shattered China’s plans for a peaceful run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

But the outburst by a group of 30 monks in red robes came as the journalists were being shown around the Jokhang Temple – one of Tibet’s holiest shrines – by Chinese government handlers.

“Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” yelled one young Buddhist monk, who then started to cry.

They insisted their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, had nothing to do with the anti-government riots in Lhasa, where buildings were burned and looted and ethnic Han Chinese were attacked.

Officials shouted for the journalists to leave and tried to pull them away.

“They want us to curse the Dalai Lama, and that is not right,” one monk said during the 15-minute outburst.

“This had nothing to do with the Dalai Lama,” said another, referring to the 14 March riots in which the Chinese government says 22 people died, while Tibetan exiles claim the death toll is 140.

Reporters were earlier taken to a Tibet medical clinic that was attacked by protesters and were shown a clothes shop where five girls had been trapped and burned to death.

The monks, who first spoke Tibetan and then switched to Mandarin so journalists could understand them, said they knew they would probably be arrested.

Troops who had been guarding the temple were removed the night before the visit, they said. One monk said authorities planted other monks in the monastery to talk to the journalists, calling them “not true believers but… Communist Party members.”

“They are all officials, they (the government] arranged for them to come in. And we aren’t allowed to go out because they say we could destroy things, but we never did anything,” another monk said.

Later the Chinese-installed vice-governor of Tibet said the Jokhang monks were confined to the monastery because some had joined protesters. He promised they would not be punished for their outburst.”

Tibet – eyewitness report: Monk ‘kicked to floor’

Before I get to the article I want to present, I must say that I was very proud when our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, took the right stance and called on China to “fully respect human rights and peaceful protest” and “show restraint” in Tibet. Harper released his statement through Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre at a pro-Tibet rally on Parliament Hill on Thursday. Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier later called on China to begin talks with Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
The response from the Chinese ambassador Lu Shumin- a pretty nasty one I must say, and I am still surprised he was not recalled back, wait a minute, I meant kicked out of Canada- was basically ‘Canada, butt out’. To Mr. Lu Shumin with love: KISS OUR ASSES!
Ambassador Lu Shumin said recent remarks from Canadian officials fail to recognize that China is attempting to restore safety and security in the face of “violent crimes” by separatists in the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa.
“These irresponsible remarks will not do any good to the image of Canada for a champion of law and order,” Lu said Friday.
He also said that any mischaracterization of the Chinese government response to the Tibetan situation “would be inappropriate and be considered as interference with China’s internal affairs. It would also send wrong messages to Tibetan separatist forces and encourage their separatist activities and violence,” Lu warned.

Harper pissed off the Chinese when he received the Dalai Lama in his office on Parliament Hill, a move China considered offensive and when he has vowed he won’t let economic interests dictate Canada’s policies on human rights in China. Some observers believe China’s refusal to designate Canada a government-approved tourist destination is a consequence of the flagging relations
Kudos to our Prime Minister.

Going back to Tibet, it’s difficult to find information on what’s happening over there, therefore, every time I find something, I feel that I have to record the information before it’s lost, maybe forever.
Following is an eyewitness account on the monk’s treatment by the Chinese army and security forces, as presented by BBC.
Read this, and then go back to the paragraph regarding Chinese position on ‘mischaracterization’ of Chinese intervention and then draw your own conclusions.

Eyewitness: Monk ‘kicked to floor’
With tension rising in Tibet following a series of anti-China protests, the BBC spoke to an eyewitness who saw police on Wednesday beating monks at one of three monasteries which have been sealed. He wishes to be identified only as John.

“We knew something was happening because there were more road checks as we got into Lhasa.
Cars were being stopped and police were writing the licence plates down. We tried to stop at a shrine outside Lhasa but were told to keep moving.
Then we heard around Wednesday lunchtime that Drepung monastery was closed. We didn’t know why.
That afternoon we went to Sera monastery to see the debating. It’s famous – the monks debate points of philosophy and people come to see it.
Just when it was about to start, around three o’clock, we started to hear rounds of applause coming out of a courtyard in the heart of the temple.
They were grabbing monks, kicking and beating them
We thought the debate was starting but then suddenly the clapping reached a crescendo – kind of a hooting.
Then the gate of the debating compound opened and this stream of maroon humanity poured out, several hundred monks. It was impossible to count but I think there were at least 300.
We thought it was part of the tradition but when you looked at the expression on their faces, it was a very serious business. They were pumping their hands in the air as they ran out of the temple.

Plain-clothes police
The minute that happened we saw the police – two or three who were inside the compound – suddenly speaking into their radios.
They started going after the monks, and plain-clothes police – I don’t know this for sure but that’s what I think they were – started to emerged from nowhere.
There were four or five in uniform but another 10 or 15 in regular clothing. They were grabbing monks, kicking and beating them.
One monk was kicked in the stomach right in front of us and then beaten on the ground.
The monks were not attacking the soldiers, there was no melee. They were heading out in a stream, it was a very clear path, and the police were attacking them at the sides. It was gratuitous violence.
The Tibetan lay-people started rushing to get out of the temple. Tibetan grandmothers were grabbing young kids and getting them out.
We were left behind when the monks left the temple. About 20 minutes later we felt as if we could leave.

Riot police
Outside the monastery the road curved to the left and to the right. We were directed left – but when we looked to the right there was a line of riot police with batons and helmets blocking off the street.
The monks were sitting in neat rows on the ground, surrounded by a phalanx of police. It was a very clear show of force – there were maybe as many as 300 riot police and regular police there.
It could have been civil disobedience, but it looked like the monks had been put there. They weren’t moving.
As we turned left, we saw troop carriers with camouflaged army regulars arriving – those green trucks with soldiers in the back on benches. We saw guns, large guns that looked like automatic weapons.
There were two or three of those trucks as well as others – several units of public order personnel swarming the situation.
As we left, all the roads around the monastery were blocked by police. There was no access.
At the time, all the phones were dead – we were trying to call the hotel but none of the cell phones were working. But within an hour the phone service was back on.
It seemed as if within half an hour the thing had been totally brought under control.
Back in Lhasa, it was eerily normal. There were police around but not really a muscular presence. It seemed to have been a massive localised show of force.
We realised that if we had gone to Sera monastery an hour earlier or an hour later, no-one would have known what these monks had done.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/03/14 12:15:32 GMT

Tibetan monks: A controlled life

My heart aches every time I read about how the Chinese are dealing with the Tibet struggle for autonomy, a real autonomy.
I believe that again and again we witness the same old story: the ‘righteous’ big powers doing nothing when their interest is not in play. By ‘big powers’ I mean the USA, the UK, Germany, France… where are they now? All of them were so fast to recognize Kosovo’s independence, but no one seems to have any muscle to flex when it’s time to really do something righteous.
They are disgusting.

Following is an article as found on BBC’s site, and kuddos to BBC for covering the story of Tibet unrests.

Tibetan monks: A controlled life
China’s crackdown on monk-led rallies in Lhasa is part of a long history of state control of monasteries, argues Peter Firstbrook, producer of BBC Four series A Year in Tibet.

Buddhist monasteries are among the few institutions in China which have the potential to organise resistance and opposition to the government – so the Chinese Communist Party constantly worries about them.

Are some monks secret supporters of the Dalai Lama? Could they be working towards Tibetan independence? Beijing’s fear is so great that being found with just a photograph of the Dalai Lama in your possession could land you in jail.

Government regulation of the monasteries started almost as soon as the People’s Liberation Army marched into Tibet in 1950.

The recent protests mark the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising of 1959 when anti-Chinese and anti-communist demonstrations erupted on the streets of Lhasa, and were put down by force.

Lhasa’s three major monasteries – the Sera, Drepung and Ganden, were seriously damaged by shelling. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee into exile and the Tibetan government-in-exile estimates that 86,000 Tibetans died.

I visit these temples once or twice a month. I tell them what to do and what not to do. They all listen and say nothing
Communist Party official

Less than a decade later, Mao’s Cultural Revolution wrought havoc in the region and the Red Guards destroyed more than 6,000 monasteries and convents – just a handful survived.

Along with the buildings, hundreds and thousands of priceless and irreplaceable statues, tapestries and manuscripts were destroyed.

“At that time all the monasteries were destroyed. The whole country was changing during the revolution. The wave of change was unstoppable,” says Dondrup, a 77-year-old monk at the Pel Kor Monastery in Gyantse.

‘False’ lama

Further evidence of Chinese control over Tibetan Buddhism came in 1995, with the naming of the new reincarnation of the Panchen Lama – second only to the Dalai Lama in terms of spiritual seniority in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama selected six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima – but within days the young boy and his immediate family disappeared, apparently abducted.

Although we can’t have that many lamas now, we can still absorb new lamas under the current regulations and policies
Pel Kor monastery

The Chinese government soon announced they had found the real Panchen Lama, a six-year old boy named Gyaltsen Norbu.

Gyaltsen Norbu just happened to be the son of two Tibetan Communist Party workers and he was soon whisked off to Beijing, where he continues to live today. Only occasionally does he appear in public, in carefully stage-managed events.

Most monks regard him as a “false” lama, though he is venerated by ordinary Tibetans.

We filmed his visit to the Pel Kor Monastery in Gyantse in September 2006. It was clear the authorities were worried about demonstrations as there were hundreds of police and army personnel on the streets and the monks had to go through a security check to get into their own monastery.

Since the 1980s the Chinese government has begun to rebuild some of the monasteries and they has also granted greater religious freedom – although it is still limited.

But almost every aspect of the lives of Buddhist monks and nuns is monitored and controlled by the government.

Phone technology

Every monastery and nunnery in Tibet is visited at least once every few weeks by a Communist Party official, who checks that the government rules and regulation are being correctly applied.

Butri, a Tibetan Communist Party cadre, explains: “I visit these temples once or twice a month. I tell them what to do and what not to do. They all listen and say nothing.”

The government is also very careful whom it allows to become a monk. All novices have to go through a detailed vetting procedure which takes years to complete. Even their families are checked for any subversive background.

The Chinese government also restricts the number of monks and nuns. In fact, monasteries can no longer perform many of their rituals correctly because of a shortage of monks.

Tsultrim, the deputy head lama of the Pel Kor monastery in Gyantse, said at its peak the monastery was home to 1,500 monks. Today the Chinese government restricts numbers to no more than 80.

“Although we can’t have that many lamas now, we can still absorb new lamas under the current regulations and policies,” he said.

“Of course, we need to check up on them, to see if they’re the right people for us.”

The recent conflict on the streets of Lhasa mirrors events almost 20 years ago – the last time there were major protests – when frustration among the monks and ordinary Tibetans finally reached boiling point in 1989.

But today, there is one important difference: technology. Practically every Tibetan monk I have met has a mobile phone. They even have special pockets sewn inside their robes to carry them.

In the past it has been notoriously difficult to communicate across the vast expanse of Tibet. Today, everybody is just a text away.

A Year In Tibet will be broadcast on BBC Four on Thursday, 20 March, 2008 at 2100 GMT.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/03/20 20:34:59 GMT

Have you tried Maca yet?

If not, what are you waiting for?
Maybe you have never heard anything about it or maybe you are just very skeptical that all that hype surrounding this root may be true.
And who can blame you? There are so many new super foods you are bombarded with, almost on a daily basis, that it’s becoming more and more difficult to trust something, let alone try it.

I have used maca root for about two years, and for me and my husband it only brought benefits, not only increasing our sexual drive, but bringing us the most precious gift of all: our son.

Known as “Peruvian Ginseng!”, “A Miracle Product!”, “The 21st Century Food!”, the little root vegetable that grows at high altitude- 14 000 ft above sea level- in Peru, is quickly gaining the attention and interests of a growing number of people daily.
Peruvian maca root’s main fame lies in it’s ability to increase the sexual urges and fertility rates of men and women. But there are numerous other benefits and attributes of Peruvian maca root that also are well known such as it’s ability to make people more energetic, stronger and have more endurance, and to make them feel better emotionally. Peruvian maca root is renowned for relieving the symptoms of menopause and andropause and correcting hormonal imbalances in men and women as well. As a woman approaching menopause, I can tell you that the emotional change I experience almost every day it’s overwhelming. Buts of depression alternating with insane rage, lack of patience, etc.
I have interrupted my intake of maca due to negligence mostly, but today I placed again an order and hopefully I will be able to keep my emotions under control.

According to scientific literature Peruvian maca root is amazingly rich in amino acids, phytonutrients, fatty acids, vitamin and minerals. Maybe because of the volcano enriched soil where Peruvian maca root grows and the rarified air and amazingly pure atmosphere around that area, Peruvian maca root has an abundance of trace minerals, and even some that scientists have not even classified yet. Peruvian maca root is truly a powerhouse of nutrition and energy and life giving ingredients, and a few spoonfuls of this powder every day can be a most beneficial supplement for you to take. If you are not taking a vitamin or mineral supplement, but you are taking Peruvian maca root, you will probably not be missing many essential nutrients from your diet. There is so much nutrition and goodness in this humble little tuber root that it is like a once a day supplement itself. Scientists have discovered that Peruvian maca root has the ability to regulate, support, and balance the hormonal systems of both men and women for optimal function. One of the very great things about Peruvian maca root is that it is not “gender specific” and works equally well at the hormonal changing benefits for both sexes equally.

Maca is an adaptogen, and by definition, adaptogens are substances that raise the physical body’s state of resistance to diseases through physiological health and emotional health improvements. Peruvian maca root somehow supports and rejuvenates overwhelmed, tired adrenal glands eventually resulting in much greater energy, stamina, clarity of mind and spirit, and the ability to handle stress. It should be pointed out that adaptogens work gradually and at their own speed, so the changes may take a little while to notice according to the make-up and physiological state of each individual. But continued, and persistent use of Peruvian maca root does promote phenomenal and profound changes in the hormonal, physical, and emotional states of people.

As I have already mentioned, today I placed an order. This time I am going to give it a try to gelatinized version, which does not contain starches and it’s much better for your digestive system.
Personally I like maca’s taste, although I have heard people complaining about it. It tastes somehow like backed sweet potato.

Bottom line: if you have not tried maca root yet, please do yourself a favor and try it. Preferably in the powder form, not capsules. Mix the powder in your morning smoothie and you get a nutritious and fast breakfast.