I’ve been writing about the current salmonella outbreak on my running blog and how it relates to the energy bar realm. There are actually quite a lot of products being voluntarily recalled.  One of the company’s affected is Nature’s Path (link to my blog).   When I went to their site to research I was struck by something a little scary:

Zoomed in a little closer you can see the problem:

In the midst of a peanut recall their site is advertising another peanut product. Not good advertising. In fairness, the main image rotates about every 6 seconds, so this is one of several images. It just happened to be the first one up when I visited.

They obviously shouldn’t be advertising peanut products during a recall when other product lines have been affected.  On the other hand some companies, such as Clif Bar are being very pro-active to rebuild any lost trust the recall may have caused.  Take this excerpt from a letter published by Gary & Kit, co-owners of Clif Bar & Company:

We are accountable for the food we make. At this time, we can tell you that none of our recalled products has tested positive for Salmonella. But in light of the FDA’s investigation and mounting consumer confusion, we are taking the following actions immediately:

  • Clif Bar is taking a break and temporarily suspending production and shipments of our recalled products with peanuts and peanut butter. Now and during this break, consumers can enjoy our 91 other products that do not contain recalled peanuts or peanut butter.
  • We’re reviewing our own business practices to ensure that we’re doing all we can to continue raising the bar in food quality and safety.

I just thought I’d point out the irony that I found.  Two examples of how to effectively handle a “crisis.”

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I think we all now that at some level our new President is going to sign some type of  economic stimulus package.  We may disagree on the need or scope of the package, but we all would agree that if you are going to do it, it needs to be done right with accountability and ensuring that we get the post bang for our buck.

Unlike some of the first “bailout” money which helped line corporate coffers and plush resorts, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan has some real potential to impact real people, with real issues.

Obama’s original plan included:

  • Doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years.
  • Modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.
  • Making the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized.
  • Equipping tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries.
  • Expanding broadband across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
  • Investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.

A version of this bill has already passed through the House of Representatives.  I received an action alert from a hunger related organization in Minnesota with some encouraging news that current bill included:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance: $20 billion to provide nutrition assistance to modest-income families and to lift restrictions that limit the amount of time individuals can receive food stamps.
  • Senior Nutrition Programs: $200 million for formula grants to states for elderly nutrition services including Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals.
  • Afterschool Meals: $726 million to increase the number of states that provide free dinners to children and to encourage participation by new institutions by increasing snack reimbursement rates.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program Information Systems: $100 million to improve state management information systems for the WIC program.

Obviously alleviating hunger is an important part of ending poverty and ensuring everyone has a chance to be successful, especially during a recession. Food is often cut from family budgets so that they can continue to live in a warm house.  Obviously conservatives are against government handouts, even in the form of food aid, but that is sad.  Two of these hunger related items will have a lasting long-term impact on the economy.  Improving the management of WIC programs is an investment in the future of the important program which assists mothers and new born babies – ensuring proper nutrition.  Another is the after-school meals.  For many students the only food they recieve is at school and for many more, the only hot meal they recieve is at school.  Again this is an investment in the education of our future generations.

Call your Senator today and say:

Food insecurity impacts nearly 10% of our population.

The most effective response to hunger in this economic crunch is to improve low income (your state)’s  access to and participation in federal domestic nutrition assistance programs.

Food assistance also helps unemployed citizens make the transition back to self-sufficiency.

Increased participation in these programs also brings millions of additional federal dollars into the state’s economy.

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A Minneapolis school used grant money to purchase exercise balls for the entire classroom to use. Used both as a desk chair and form of exercise they have become a critical part of the daily routine.

During my visit, several students told me that sitting on the balls while they work helps them concentrate. During the recent Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) exams, students begged Hartman to try to change the start time of the test so they could get their morning workout in. They felt it would help them do better on the test.

They are used for positive reinforcement, the kids will do almost anything to keep their balls. I must say this a pretty innovative idea for a classroom and it is great to see teachers really thinking outside the box to create safe and fun learning environments for our kids to learn in – and throw in some physical activity too!

There is a nice video that goes with the article but it isn’t embedable so you’ll just have to go look at the site for yourself!

From the Minnesota Press

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As Bike to Work week draws to a close I found two newspaper articles quite intriguing.

The first comes from the Star Tribune which says that Minneapolis is ranked second in the nation for the number of bike commuters. While the other comes from the Indy Star which says that Indianapolis is ranked second from last in bike commuters! Quite the contrast.

Part of the reason is that Indy just doesn’t have the infrastructure – bike lanes and trails – to really support widespread bike commuting. Indianapolis has 6 miles of bike lanes and 13 miles of bike trails while Minneapolis alone has 40 miles of on road bike lanes and close to 80 miles of off-road paved trails. Indy also is missing other elements that make Mpls a great place to bike commute – shower facilities, downtown gym facilities (for showering etc), bike lockers, and ample bike racks.

Don’t get me wrong Minneapolis has a long way to come in being bike friendly, but it is a lot of small stuff that improves safety like street cleaning roads with bike lanes first, enforcing parking restrictions in bike lanes, etc. There is a strong biking culture here in Minneapolis that supports biking and attracts bikers. Did I mention that people bike to work even in the winter? Yea, that’s hard core!

It is a little crazy to bike in -34 wind chills but people were out on the Greenway (I guess its a little crazy that I was out there running and saw them!!). They tend to ride bikes with wider tires and some people even have a summer and winter bike. So yes it is a pretty strong bike culture!

Here are some random links I found, I haven’t looked through them all.

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Whether you believe global warming is our biggest issue or a government hoax I think we should all agree that it is a good idea to try and make our life a little more enjoyable by reducing some of the carbon in the atmosphere.

I think some of the liberal elites and more radical conservationists would have us believe that costs a lot of money. That doesn’t always have to be the case. It can be as simple as shutting off the lights when you leave a room!

created a list of twelve ideas that cost very little (or are smart financial decisions) but can make a large impact. I’ve listed my thoughts after each item!

1. Skip a trip. Did you know that forgoing a single international trip just might offset all of the carbon emissions produced by running your car and your home over the course of a year? On top of that, you’ll save a decent chunk of money by sitting tight (unless, of course, it’s a business trip that you’re skipping). That’s an interesting number – we aren’t planning on traveling internationally anytime soon. The last major trip I took included some carbon saving portions such as public transportation and taking the Megabus.

2. Hire someone to seal up your house. Simply sealing leaks around windows and doors and insulating ducts could save you upwards of $100/year and reduce your carbon emissions by at least 1,000 pounds per year. If you’re too lazy to do this yourself, hire someone. We rent, but our landlords pay the gas bill! They actually did get all the windows replaced or sealed or something before we moved in!

3. Work from home. Instead of carpooling or taking mass transit, a much easier and more effective way of reducing your time in transit (and the resulting cost and environmental impact) is to telecommute. While this isn’t always possible (consider blue collar jobs, or those in the service industry) doing this just once a week cuts you commuting costs by 20% straightaway. Moreover, companies like American Express have apparently found that telecommuting actually increases worker productivity. Not everyone can sit in their pajamas all day at home! I take public transit every day to work and we reduced Christy’s commute mileage from 50 – 8 by moving here and we walk to a lot more places.

4. Drive a fuel-efficient car. Spend a bit of extra time picking out a fuel-efficient car and you’ll automatically save a decent chunk of gas money, and pollute considerably less, over the life of your car. Our Honda gets over 30 mpg and sometimes close to 35!!!

5. Use cruise control. With the possible exception of driving in hilly terrain, cruise control is a great way to save gas. Indeed, tests have found that using cruise control can improve mileage by as much as 7%. I’ve seen this myself in real life, as I’m a big fan of cruise control and my wife isn’t. Guess who gets better mileage on long roadtrips? Me. By a long shot. Even better: adaptive cruise control, which automatically adjust speed to keep you at a safe distance from cars around you. Blah, blah, blah… I don’t really buy some of these things. This one might actually work but the whole slow down thing bunk in my opinion. On a recent trip to Indiana when I drove at about 80 I got better mileage than when I drove at 80 and our friends drove at 70 or 75. It is more about where your car runs most efficiently. “Sorry officer, I was trying to improve gas mileage by speeding up!”

6. Cool your water heating bills. Check the temperature on your water heater and, if necessary, lower it to 120 degrees. Beyond this, whenever possible you should wash your clothes in cold instead of hot water. Landlord pays for it and we are all on the same unit.

7. Don’t wash the dishes. While it’s possible to wash your dishes by hand using a relatively small amount of water, most people keep the faucet running while they do this chore. Instead, load up the dishwasher and run it. Assuming that it’s full, you’ll save about 30% of the water that you would’ve otherwise used. Moreover, you should skip the pre-rinse (take that, Mom!) and just let the dishwasher do its thing. We do this now!! But our washer doesn’t get all the gunk off so we still have to pre-wash.

8. Use a laptop, and let it nap. Replacing a desktop computer and display with an energy-efficient laptop, and setting it to go to sleep when not in use, can save a substantial chunk of money — and reduce carbon emissions by as much as 500 pounds per year. That’s an interesting stat.. we both have laptops although her HP doesn’t automatically sleep when you shut the top like mine. I wonder if some brands are better than others…

9. Drink tap water. Why lug bottles of what is essentially tap water home from the store with you when you can just open the spigot and pour a glass? You’ll not only save a ton of money, but you’ll also save the carbon emissions associated with bottling that water and hauling it to its ultimate destination. Do this most of the time! Hope I don’t get cancer or whatever from reusing the bottles.

10. Stay married. Converting one household into two means bigger utility bill and more greenhouse gases. Not to mention mountains of legal bills. A recent study out of Michigan State University estimated that divorced families consumed and extra 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, corresponding to an extra 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per household. Yea I was planning on that!! I guess this is another good reason to stay married :)

11. Consider carbon offsets, but be careful. If you’re too lazy to do any of these things yourself, you can always pay someone to offset your emissions for you. Just be sure to work with an entity that actually does what it says. Here’s a nice summary. Nah… that costs money!

12. Support carbon taxes. A variety of experts on both sides of the aisle have argued that imposing a carbon tax on gasoline, coal, and other fuel sources would be the simplest and most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. In essence, this would be a surcharge that’s based on the amount of carbon dioxide produced by a given amount of fuel. Because this will place yet another burden on businesses and consumers, some have argued that the revenue should then be used to fund income tax cuts or direct rebates. I doubt it would really change anything in the short-term.

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Play this game (a little cheesy) of driving a dirt bike around Africa delivering Malaria Nets to individuals in need.

Malaria is one of several curable/preventable deadly diseases that is ravaging Africa. Nothing but Nets has this to say about the disease:

Malaria, from the Medieval Italian words mala aria or “bad air,” infects more than 500 million people a year and kills more than a million— one person dies about every 30 seconds. The disease is particularly devastating in Africa, where it is a leading killer of children.

The disease is a self-perpetuating problem with large-scale impact on societies and economies. Malaria accounts for up to half of all hospital admissions and outpatient visits in Africa. In addition to the burden on the health system, malaria illness and death cost Africa approximately $12 billion a year in lost productivity. The effects permeate almost every sector. Malaria increases school absenteeism, decreases tourism, inhibits foreign investment, and even affects the type of crops that are grown.

Despite the magnitude of the problem, there is a simple and cost-effective solution to prevent malaria deaths. For just $10, we can purchase a bed net, deliver it to a family, and explain its use. Bed nets work by creating a protective barrier against mosquitoes at night, when the vast majority of transmissions occur. A family of four can sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net, safe from malaria, for up to four years. The benefits of bed nets extend even further than the family. When enough nets are used, the insecticide used to deter mosquitoes makes entire communities safer—including even those individuals who do not have nets.

Although $10 for a bed net may not sound like much, the cost makes them out of reach for most people at risk of malaria, many of whom survive on less than $1 a day. Nets are a simple, life-saving solution, but we need your help to provide them to those in need.

You can make a monetary contribution or play their game. This is a partnership created by the United Nations foundation.

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Don’t abuse or take advantage of strangers; you,remember, were once strangers in Egypt. Don’t mistreat widows or orphans. If you do and they cry out to me, you can be sure I’ll take them most seriously; I’ll show my anger and come raging among you with the sword, and your wives will end up widows and your children orphans. And if I hear the neighbor crying out from the cold, I’ll step in—I’m compassionate.”
Exodus 22:21-27 The Message

As millions suffer from this dreadful disease, we are full-swing into a self-centered, materialistic, holiday season.  If we want to put the Christ back in Christmas this is an excellent opportunity. Christ was about justice, not materialism or fighting to have His name displayed everywhere.

World AIDS Day is actually tomorrow (Dec 1) and is a day to focus on the AIDS pandemic and its impact on global structures.   The World AIDS Campaign has selected Leadership as its 2007 theme. From their site

Leaders are distinguished by their action, innovation and vision; their personal example and engagement of others; and their perseverance in the face of obstacles and challenges. However, leaders are often not those in the highest offices. Leadership must be demonstrated at every level to get ahead of the disease – in families, in communities, in countries and internationally. Much of the best leadership on AIDS has been demonstrated within civil society organisations challenging the status quo. (emphasis mine)

HIV rates are actually increasing throughout the world while at the same time less money and attention is being paid to the issue.  HIV/AIDS makes for good soundbytes for politicians but many have failed to take a leadership role and really step up to ensure that our promises are kept.

The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:5

World Vision offers you the opportunity to Learn, Act, and Give.

©2007 Jon Warren/World Vision
Country: Democratic Republic of
the Congo

They have focused on the 6,000 children who lose a parent to AIDS. The ONE Campaign has a good list of activities and organizations working on the issue posted on their blog. I would strongly encourage you to take action today.

Your help is vital to changing the world for our fellow citizens around the world who are struggling to survive, while you struggle to find a Wii.

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

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