Archive for May 12, 2008


Reuters

China’s most devastating earthquake in three decades killed nearly 9,000 people today, with the toll likely to soar as authorities struggle to reach casualties in large areas cut off from relief.

The earthquake that hit China’s southwestern province of Sichuan killed 8,533 people, the official Xinhua news agency said today, citing the provincial government.

 The epicentre of the 7.8 magnitude quake was in a mountainous region about 100 km from Sichuan’s capital Chengdu, a bustling city of 10 million. 

The road started swaying as I was driving. Rocks fell from the mountains, with dust darkening the sky over the valley,” a driver for Sichuan’s seismological bureau was quoted by Xinhua as saying, as he was driving near the epicentre.

 The quake hit in the middle of the school day, toppling eight schools in the region. Chemical plants and at least one hospital were also flattened, trapping many hundreds, state media said.

 About 900 teenagers were buried in the rubble of a collapsed three-storey school building in the Sichuan city of Dujiangyan.

Local villagers had already helped dozens of students out of the ruins and five cranes were excavating the site as anxious parents looked on, Xinhua said.

 “Some buried teenagers were struggling to break loose from underneath the ruins while others were crying out for help,” the agency said.

Nightfall, severed communications and blocked roads have hampered rescue efforts and the death toll was likely to rise significantly.

An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people were killed in Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County alone, state media said.

 

As many as 10,000 in Beichuan were feared injured and 80 per cent of the buildings there had been destroyed, Xinhua said. There had been more than 300 aftershocks, state television said. 

Beichuan’s population is 161,000, meaning about one in 10 residents were killed or injured. The county is a part of Mianyang city, and about 100 miles from the provincial capital, Chengdu.

 

Hundreds of people were buried in two collapsed chemical plants in Shifang in Sichuan, the online edition of the official Xinhua news agency said.

 

About 6,000 people were evacuated, Xinhua said, adding that more than 80 tonnes of highly corrosive liquid ammonia had leaked.

 Hundreds of people were buried under rubble in Shifang in Sichuan as several schools, factories and dormitories collapsed during the quake, the official Xinhua news agency said. 

Hundreds were also buried under rubble in a collapsed hospital in Dujiangyan city in Sichuan.

 The quake’s epicentre was in nearby Wenchuan, a mountainous county of about 100,000 people, but its force was enough to cause buildings to sway across China and as far away as the Thai capital Bangkok.

 The Sichuan plain is one of China’s most fertile agricultural areas, but it relies heavily on an irrigation system linked to the 2,000-year-old Dujiangyan flood control works.

 Which means the quake could exacerbate inflation, already running at the fastest pace in 12 years.

 The quake is also the worst to hit China in 32 years since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake in northeastern China where up to 300,000 died.

 It has come at a bad time for China, which holds the Olympic Games in August, and has been struggling to keep a lid on unrest in ethnic Tibetan areas and the heavily Muslim northeastern Xinjiang region.

 The US Geological Survey said on its website the main quake struck at 0628 GMT at a depth of 6 miles.

 In Beijing and Shanghai, office workers poured into the streets as the tremor hit. In the capital, there was no visible damage and the showpiece Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium was unscathed.

 Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Chengdu and President Hu Jintao ordered an “all-out” rescue effort, Xinhua reported.

 Thousands of army troops and paramilitary People’s Armed Police carrying medical supplies were also headed to the region, state television said. But a landslide had blocked a mountain road leading to Wenchuan, preventing troops from reaching the scene, state radio said.

At least 45 had died in Chengdu, Xinhua said, citing an official with the local seismological bureau. Another 600 people were injured, 58 of them critically, in the sprawling city.

 Some 57 have been confirmed killed in northern Shaanxi, 48 in northwestern Gansu, 50 in Chongqing municipality, and one in Yunnan province, Xinhua said, citing the national headquarters of disaster relief.

Food safety has been front and center recently with the tainted imports from China and national recalls of select produce due to E. coli contamination. However the recent huge beef recall from Westland-Hallmark Meat Company, based in Chino, California set a precedent for the meat industry as well as our nations food safety practices or should I say the lack there of.

By the time the recall had been initiated most of the beef had been consumed and the Department of Agriculture stated the reasons for the recall was that the  Westland/Hallman had not followed (F.S.I.S), Food Safety and Inspection Service procedure. If that is the stated reason in this case, where was the FSIS inspector for that facility? One must question a fact related to this incident and that is, if  slaughter facilities cannot conduct slaughter operations unless FSIS inspection personnel are present, as per the guidlines set forth by the USDA, how did this incident slip by the inspector and did this facility get away with these practices before the video evidence or was it an isolated incident?

Evidence suggest the very agency who claim to protect our food supply has a contradictory motive.  The USDA has filed an appeal to stop meatpackers from testing all their animals for Mad Cow Disease. Their reason for the appeal “The agency argues that more widespread testing does not guarantee food safety and could result in a false positive that scares consumers”, or could it be if testing increases the results will reveal our food supply is tainted thus causing consumer, health and  export concerns?

For your consideration;

 

Government urges appeals court to keep meatpackers from testing all cattle for mad cow

By SAM HANANEL , Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration on Friday urged a federal appeals court to stop meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease, but a skeptical judge questioned whether the government has that authority.

The government seeks to reverse a lower court ruling that allowed Arkansas City, Kan.-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef  to conduct more comprehensive testing to satisfy demand from overseas customers in Japan and elsewhere.

Less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows are currently tested for the disease under Agriculture Department guidelines. The agency argues that more widespread testing does not guarantee food safety and could result in a false positive that scares consumers.

“They want to create false assurances,” Justice Department attorney Eric Flesig-Greene told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

But Creekstone attorney Russell Frye contended the Agriculture Department’s regulations covering the treatment of domestic animals contain no prohibition against an individual company testing for mad cow disease, since the test is conducted only after a cow is slaughtered. He said the agency has no authority to prevent companies from using the test to reassure customers.

“This is the government telling the consumers, `You’re not entitled to this information,'” Frye said.

Chief Judge David B. Sentelle seemed to agree with Creekstone’s contention that the additional testing would not interfere with agency regulations governing the treatment of animals.

“All they want to do is create information,” Sentelle said, noting that it’s up to consumers to decide how to interpret the information.

Larger meatpackers have opposed Creekstone’s push to allow wider testing out of fear that consumer pressure would force them to begin testing all animals too. Increased testing would raise the price of meat by a few cents per pound.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. Three cases of mad cow disease have been discovered in the U.S. since 2003.

The district court’s ruling last year in favor of Creekstone was supposed to take effect June 1, 2007, but the Agriculture Department’s appeal has delayed the testing so far.

 

Why would an adminstration so concerned about our Nations food supply and agriculture appeal a case for more testing by a company wanting to reassure consumers their product is safe?

Now consider this from Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-9

“The United States agriculture and food systems are vulnerable to disease, pest, or poisonous agents that occur naturally, are unintentionally introduced, or are intentionally delivered by acts of terrorism. Americas agriculture and food system is an extensive, open, interconnected, diverse, and complex structure providing potential targets for terrorist attacks. We should provide the best protection possible against a successful attack on the United States agriculture and food system, which could have catastrophic health and economic effects”.

This directive is the rationale for the National Bio Agro Defense Facility  and one could argue our food supply and agriculture infrastructure is currently under attack by the Bush Administration. If the intent is to have a safer food supply obliviously that would be achieved by more comprehensive testing by our food suppliers at no cost to the taxpayer but at the cost to the consumer who makes the choice to purchase the product. This juxtaposition is just another link in the fear-mongering chain created by liars stakeholders and politicians who put profits and questionable research above we the people.  

H/T Corrinne N.

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