Why is there any acceptable level of melamine in food?

I keep wondering: why international regulators would accept any level of melamine in food? What’s the reason for having even trace amounts? According to some news, ‘the United Nations on Friday urged concerted action to remove melamine from the food chain and restore public confidence in dairy products as China’s toxic milk scandal deepened.’(AFP)

It’s started with kids dying or getting severely ill due to the presence of melamine in milk.
It moved to baby animals getting kidney problems due to the same reason.

China downplayed the whole story, as they would normally do. Even better, they found the American way of dealing with stringent issues: it’s called ‘diverting the attention to something else’. China moved the attention from the milk scandal to the launch late on Thursday of the country’s third manned space mission, the spacecraft Shenzhou VII.

In the mean time, everybody else is affected by the melamine scandal.
U.S. regulators warned the public on Friday not to consume seven Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products that were made in China, because of concerns they may be contaminated with melamine.
So far, FDA testing of milk-based products imported into the United States from China had not found any melamine contamination, an agency statement said.

Hong Kong government announced it had found traces of melamine in Heinz DHA+AA vegetable formula baby cereal and steamed potato wasabi crackers produced by Silang House in China.
The company said in a statement the recall affected one batch of one variety, about 270 cases.
Heinz said it determined all its other products were safe after extensive testing. The company said the variety being recalled is less than 1 percent of its baby food sales in Hong Kong. Company spokesman Michael Mullen said melamine is found throughout the food chain in minute traces and the amount in question in the Heinz product was 25 times lower than internationally accepted levels.
The product’s bar code is 6901642888480.

White Rabbit Creamy Candy has been affected by recall as well. The candy’s producer, Guanshengyuan, had earlier recalled its exports to more than 50 countries.
‘ The candies were removed from stores in Singapore and Hong Kong on Wednesday after tests showed some of the sweets had six times the legal limit of the industrial chemical melamine (Ottawa Citizen.com)’
Last Sunday, a Chinese-made dessert, Nissin Cha Cha Dessert, made using Yili Pure Milk, was placed on the recall list.

Canada’s Food Inspection Agency and Regent Long Marketing and Distribution Ltd. advised people not to consume the dessert, which was distributed in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

The EU yesterday banned imports of dairy-based Chinese food products, including biscuits, sweets and chocolate amid a growing global health scare over contaminated milk from China. The European Commission placed new precautionary restrictions and tighter EU border checks on all Chinese food products entering Europe.
A commission spokesman said the measures would also place a ban on all products for infants and young children originating from China that contain any percentage of milk (OttawaCitizen.com)

Japan announced on Friday, that Marudai Food Co. had been found melamine in some of its recalled products made with Chinese milk, including “Cream Panda” buns.
‘The government in the Chinese territory of Macau said late Thursday it had found melamine levels 24 times the safety limit in chocolate-filled Koala’s March cookies made by Lotte China Foods Co. The company is a member of Tokyo-based conglomerate Lotte Group.’(AP)

‘Pizza Hut in Taiwan chains said Friday it was halting the supply of cheese powder to its restaurants because the powder was found to be contaminated by melamine.Wu Yu-ping, an official with Pizza Hut in Taiwan, said the tainted cheese was supplied by Taiwan’s Kaiyuan Company, but its source is not known.’(AP)

Political turmoil forecast: Clinton vs Palin

I would absolutely love to see a debate between these two women. Palin would roll her doe eyes and avoid every question that would not have a scripted answer. Her self proclaimed ‘I am a pit bull with lipstick’ won’t help against the rough and intelligent Senator Clinton. Palin may be able to impress the guys with her experience as a participant to a Miss contest, she may be able to bully a super nice guy like Joe Biden, but the whole hell would freeze before Hillary Clinton would be intimidated by the Caribou Barbie. I have never thought that Hillary Clinton is a nice person, a likeable one, but she is a very good and strong politician. She is not a dummy with designer glasses and I believe and I reiterate that Obama made a huge mistake not choosing her as a running mate. Regardless his reasons, he should have put the interests of the country ahead of his stupid ego.

The rumors started circulating on the net some days ago that Obama may be forced to replace Biden with Clinton and resurfaced today. Of course, they were denied by the Democrats and by some political analysts. Some would say it’s a political suicide that could cost the Democrats the presidency. But let’s face it: they are already in a deep shit. With all the ridiculous things McCain is doing, the republicans are still not convinced that he is a bad choice and that Palin is a nightmare prospect. And even worse, part of the Democrats don’t want Obama, it’s quite clear. It does not even matter if the reason is racism or anything else. They would rather not vote anybody or deflect to the Republican camp than vote for Obama.
In the mean time, feeling vulnerable upon the arrival of Moose-Shooting-Barbie, Obama asked Senator Clinton and her husband to campaign on various key states, to charm the undecided electorate.
A recent Associated Press-Yahoo News poll showed former Clinton backers are still reluctant to support Obama. The survey showed just 58 percent of them back him – unchanged since a similar poll in June.
Other polls clearly show that if it were Senator Clinton versus Senator McCain, or Mrs. Clinton versus Mrs. Palin, the senator of New York would be sitting in the Oval Office come January.

While Obama should be worried about fixing the stupid mistake of not choosing Hillary Clinton, McCain is doing his damage control by not allowing Palin to participate in any debate. Duh!! It’s pretty obvious that she is just a form without substance. I mean, being a bully won’t give you substance; being a mayor of Wasilla, population 7000, won’t give you ‘executive experience’ and seeing Russia from your house definitely won’t make you an expert in international politics. Palin was sent to UN meetings to meet some international leaders but the press was not allowed to witness the historical moment of Palin talking about something else other then kids.
Then she was not allowed to participate in any debate, because allegedly Republicans are concentrating now on the most stringent issue of saving what it can be saved of the financial mess the deregulation of the investment banks threw the Wall Street into. So forget about the campaign or the debates.

McCain pissed off David Letterman and I am looking forward to hearing the next years of jokes about McCain. Letterman is not a guy you want to cross over. He had the guts and the persistence to proclaim his grief against the ‘Queen’ Oprah, the American sweetheart (whatever) after she refused to come to his show.
MSNBC reported on Wednesday afternoon that John McCain canceled a scheduled appearance on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman” mere hours before he was slated to tape the show Wednesday as part of the suspension of his campaign.

Sometime during his interview with Keith Olbermann, Dave fond out that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, “Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?”
Letterman also said:
“The road to the White House runs right through me”
“He can’t run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sarah Palin. Where is she?”

Watch the vitriolic and well deserved attack David Letterman launched on McCain and Palin

McCain proved one more time that he is not capable of confronting guys like Letterman, Stewart or Colbert. Palin probably is even less prepared for real wits.

Picasso’s work is still better than Hirst’s work

Just when I told myself that nothing would surprise me anymore with regards to insane amounts of money spent on modern art, here comes Damien Hirst’s record of $198 millions made over 2 days auctions held by Sotheby’s. And that happened at the same time when the Lehman Brothers Holdings collapsed. I guess some people, like the billionaires made rich by the dreadful hedge funds, found a rapid niche to invest money out of the sinking ship.

Until Hirst’s work sold by an auction house, the record belonged to 88 works by Picasso, sold in 1993 for $20 million. Hirst made $198 million from 223 works. With a ratio of 4.4 Picasso vs Hirst’s 0.88 it’s a no brainer that Picasso still rules.

Some time ago I wrote a post about Lucian Freud’s big sale of $33.6 million for the painting ‘Benefits Supervisor Sleeping’. More like expressing my stupefaction that somebody would fetch so much money for a painting that was not even very appealing.
But I have to give him credit for the many hours spent working on his paintings. Not the same thing is to be said about Damien Hirst, who is using an army of assistants to come up with something identified as ‘art’.

The piece of work that really amazed me- really worth $19.7 million??- was The Golden Calf.

The Golden Calf

In case you don’t understand what’s in there I tell you: It’s a real calf in a tank of formaldehyde, with 18-carat gold hoofs and horns and a golden disc on his head.
Grotesque, to say the least. I can only presume that whoever wasted $19.7 million on this thing did it just to have volatile paper money backed by the more secure gold. Really, who the heck is going to keep a formaldehyde tank in the house and stare at it thinking ‘wow, it brings me such piece of mind’. The whole stupid thing weights in 600 kg.

If you want to see a really nice piece of art involving a Golden Calf, go to the British National Gallery and look for ‘The Adoration of the Golden Calf’ by Nicolas Poussin.

It’s not the first time Hirst goes head to head with Picasso’s work. Last year Hirst’s work “For the Love of God” was said to have been sold to an investment group for $100. It’s a skull of 35-year-old 18th century European man, cast in platinum and covered with 8,601 diamonds.
For the Love of God

But Picasso’s “Garçon à la pipe” was sold by Sotheby’s New York in May 2004, to an anonymous buyer for $104.1 million. The painting broke the record held by Vincent van Gogh ($85 million)and it was the first time that the $100 million barrier was broken. Speculations ran that the ‘anonymous’ buyer could be Guido Barilla, the Italian pasta magnate.

Garçon à la pipe

Another Picasso work, the painting ‘Dora Maar at Chat’, was sold by Sotheby’s in 2007 for $95.2 million to a mystery Russian buyer. The buyer’s identity has been revealed inside the house on a strictly need-to-know basis. Of course such a secrecy made people even more determined to find out who is this guy. Curious as well? According to some sources it’s a banker from Moscow and not one of the usual suspects like Roman Abramovich, or the vodka mogul Roustam Tariko.
So the list of 33 Russian billionaires narrowed down to 26. Andrei Melnichenko, of MDM-Bank denied purchasing the painting. Other sources would say that the accent of the guy acting on behalf of the buyer could have been Bulgarian or Romanian.

If you want to read in the clues as posted by the British Telegraph, here they are:
Clue One:
A Moscow Banker of information, from a source who claims to know the buyer personally, narrows down the list of 33 Russian billionaires to these men:
Boris Ivanishvili, Impexbank: worth $3.9 billion
Vagit Alekperov, Imperial Bank: $11 billion
Alexander Lebedev, National Reserve Bank: $3.5 billion
Nikolai Tsvetkov, Uralsib: $5.2 billion
Andrei Melnichenko, MDM-Bank: $2.7 billion
Clue Two: But Not Russian
The only way to square this clue with the first is to focus on those Moscow bankers who come from countries outside the Russian Federation:
German Khan, born in Ukraine
Vagit Alekperov, born in Azerbaijan
Boris Ivanishvili, born in Georgia
Clue Three: Elimination
Alekperov is more of an oilman than a banker, and Khan has art-aficionado friends who would have advised him on auction protocol.

That leaves (based on speculation and circumstantial evidence):
Boris Ivanishvili. He fits the profile, plus he sold his Moscow bank a week before the auction, giving him $550 million in extra spending money.

Artists like Picasso are big brand names, making their artwork like international currency so it’s understandable that it’s worth millions. But a calf or a shark in formaldehyde could it be called ‘art’?

Headlines- September 18, 2008

China’s tainted milk recall

4 babies dead, over 6000 ill and tons of milk recalled. This is what happens when people decide to make money contaminating milk with melamine.
A total of 18 arrests were made and lots of people detained. Probably some of them are going to be executed and I can’t tell that I feel sorry for them. Buddhism teaches us to be compassionate but really, what compassion could anybody feel for greed pushed so far. What good the recalled milk would do to the already sick babies? The milk recall is good to prevent further deaths but is it going to build a new conscience as well or it is going to make crooks more careful whit what contaminant to add in the future to avoid being caught?

I was reading in some book that in Chinese culture helping others it’s a no-no, because it means that you become responsible for that life you saved/helped or to be more clear, you change that person’s fate with your help.
But from here to deliberately harming people it’s a long way. The only reason for these people to do what they did is because they wanted to get really rich in a really short time. Karma is a bitch, isn’t it?

Crash of 1929 repeating in 2008?

“Let me issue and control a nation’s money, and I care not who writes its laws”.- Meyer Amchel Rothschild

It looks like that the history repeats itself. And we should fear that the new Great Depression is just around the corner.
On Monday, October 21 1929, Wall Street’s freefall started, when six million shares swapped hands, the largest number in the history of the exchange. On Thursday, October 24, 1929, when the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) opened there were no buyers, only sellers. This day became the legendary ‘Black Thursday’. Almost 13 million shares changed hands on the NYSE that day.
The ‘Black Thursday’ was followed by the ‘Black Tuesday’- October 29, 2008 when more than 16.4 million shares changed hands. Losses were in the $8 billion range (today’s equivalent would be over 1 trillion).
The Great Crash of 1929 was the beginning of a decade of global economic depression.
The crash triggered a chain reaction:
– banks stop lending money
– people stopped buying goods
– stores stopped buying from manufacturers
– manufacturers stop producing
– people lost jobs

We are worried, of course we are. Here in Canada we felt the economic recession despite the assurance and reassurance from our government that the economy is doing fine. It is not doing freaking fine, it’s in disarray. People are losing jobs at an alarming rate, how could it be nice and dandy? Yeah, officially the unemployment rate stands at 6%, but at the same time the company I am working for reduced the number of people to 50% from how many we were here two years ago.

What’s going to happen next? The US of A would borrow money to save the banks. From whom? Uh… maybe China and Russia? And if you want to know what US federal debt is, take a look

The Outstanding Public Debt as of 18 Sep 2008 at 11:29:29 PM GMT is:
$ 9 , 6 4 9 , 0 6 0 , 7 9 3 , 0 0 7 . 6 8
The estimated population of the United States is 304,752,611
so each citizen’s share of this debt is $31,661.95.
The National Debt has continued to increase an average of
$1.80 billion per day since September 28, 2007!

Headlines September 17, 2008

Is Obama elitist?
Obama has been characterized as ‘elitist’ by.. brace yourself now because the hypocrisy is enormous: Lynn Forester de Rothschild. Somebody with a ‘de’ in name should not call somebody else ‘elitist’. Like the pot calling the kettle black.
She feels Obama is “arrogant” (I agree) and doesn’t connect with “average Americans” (stupid statement coming from de Rothschild). What she really wanted to say but could not is that Obama is “uppity” and could not be representing “average white Americans”.

The bad (???) thing is that she is going to deflect to McCain camp. I had nothing against McCain in the beginning, but after Barbie Palin came into game I changed my mind. Somehow I can understand dilemma the Americans are facing right now: they are not quite happy with Obama as potential president and they don’t like the alternative of Palin as very possible president.
Finally the Democrat camp came to their senses and asked for a full medical record of McCain. At least they could find out what are the odds to get President Palin in the next 12 months or so.

And maybe the Democrats should trump de Rothschild move with Julie Nixon and Susan Eisenhower who are both supporting Obama even if they came from Republican camp.

Russia threatens to unilaterally claim part of the Arctic
Source: Telegraph
“Global warming has stepped up the fight for the disputed Arctic, believed to be laden with vast reserves of oil and gas. Russia has pitted itself against Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States to fight for a greater part of the region, arguing that most of it is Russian territory since an underwater ridge links Siberia to the North Pole’s seabed.
“We must finalize and adopt a federal law on the southern border of Russia’s Arctic zone,” Mr. Medvedev told a meeting of the Security Council, in remarks carried by Interfax news agency.
“This is our responsibility, and simply our direct duty, to our descendents,” he said. “We must surely, and for the long-term future, secure Russia’s interests in the Arctic.”
Under international law, each of the five countries that lay claim to the Arctic own a 320-kilometre zone that extends north from their shores. That arrangement is up for UN review in May next year.”

French commandos rescue hostages
Source: Daily Mail
“French commandos have stormed a luxury yacht to rescue two French tourists who were being held for ransom by heavily-armed Somali pirates, President Nicolas Sarkozy has said.
Gunmen from Somalia have hijacked more than 30 ships so far this year, making the strategic shipping lanes in the busy Gulf of Aden the most dangerous in the world.

Hours after the French raid, pirates seized an oil or chemical tanker believed to be Hong Kong-owned, a maritime official said. More than two dozen European tuna fishing vessels rushed to the Seychelles for safety, fearing more attacks.

It was the second time this year that French troops had acted against Somali pirates. In April, French commandos captured six of them shortly after a ransom had been paid for the release of another French yacht and its 30-strong crew.

The couple rescued today was seized on September 2 by gunmen who had demanded a ransom of more than $1.4 million (£785,000) and the release of the pirates captured in April.
On Sunday, pirates fired rockets at a French tuna fishing boat in the Indian Ocean, 400 nautical miles (740 km) off Somalia.”

Milk scandal puts again China on a hot seat
My biggest pet peeve is outsourcing to China and India and don’t get me starting bitching about it.

Today I wanted to talk about the latest scare coming from China: tainted milk. We came to terms with toys made in China and contaminated with various chemicals, we came to terms to the death of family pets unfortunate to be fed contaminated food and now we struggle to understand why some guys will deliberately add melamine to milk.

What sort of a monster will taint baby food just to make money? So, these two Chinese brothers, turned entrepreneurs, decided to make more money by adding water to milk (increase the volume). Too bad that milk is tested for protein and standard tests measure the nitrogen level in order to evaluate the protein content. What to do to throw off inspections for protein content? Well, add a compound that contains nitrogen. And what comes handy? Melamine.

Melamine is an organic substance used to make fertilizers, plastics, glues and fire retardants. The same contaminant has been identified by veterinary scientists as the culprit to the death of pets last year. In the past Chinese admitted that that the practice of adding melamine to food for pets is common in China and has been going on for years so probably somebody thought that if it’s good for pigs and other animals, it should work for human babies as well.

After the milk was altered as to increase the profit and to throw off inspections, it’s been sold to Sanlu, China’s biggest provider of powdered milk. The result: three Chinese babies killed and at least 1,200 made ill with kidney stones. We are talking about 3 tones of milk sold to Sanlu, which has been ordered to cease production pending an investigation. The worst part of the story is that the NZ company Fonterra, which owns a 43% stake in Sanlu, warned the Chinese counterpart in August about the contaminated milk and it took Sanlu 6 weeks to make the recall.

I was reading yesterday that the powdered milk made by Sanlu is not sold officially in Canada but it may be found in ethnic stores. Canadian Food Inspection Agency did not find anything contaminated on the samples tested.