Germany zero in vegetable sprouts as source of killer bacteria


German-grown vegetable sprouts

The first time I blogged about this subject on June 3, 2011 (Deadly E. coli plaguing Germany), this deadly bacteria already claimed the lives of 17 people, with thousands getting sick and counting. Just a little over a week after, the death toll has been confirmed at 33, with most of the fatalities living in Germany

Germany’s food scare has not only strained relations with its European neighbors, but has cost farmers across Europe hundreds of million of euros in lost sales.

After having been under fire for taking so long in their hunt for the source of the lethal contamination, failing to provide the public with palpable information and, even, wrongly accusing the Spanish cucumber as the contaminant medium, German officials have now announced with confidence and certainty the origin of the bacteria outbreak.

“It’s the sprouts,” Reinhard Burger, the president of the Robert Koch Institute, the national disease center, told a news conference on the outbreak of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) in northern Germany.

“People who ate sprouts were found to be nine times more likely to have bloody diarrhea or other signs of EHEC infection than those who did not,” he said, citing a study of more than 100 people who fell ill after dining in restaurants.

The German authorities were able to zero in on the vegetable sprouts when they recovered discarded sprouts from the trash bin of two allegedly sick people living in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia that showed evidences tracing to the deadly E. coli bacteria.

The sprouts were later discovered to have been grown at a farm in the northern German village of Bienenbuettel. The farm has been closed and all its products recalled.

“The number of new infections is declining,” Burger told the news conference Friday following announcements of a drop in cases earlier this week.

According to Burger the number of new infections have been declining, and with this positive development, Germany hopes its fresh produce export industry will be back on track again.


Australia stops live cattle shipment to Indonesia


Cattle beaten in one of Indonesia's abattoir

The Australian government is said to have banned the shipment of live cattle to Indonesia after it was featured in Australia’s ABC TV documentary the gross maltreatment suffered by the large animals in the hands of Indonesian butchers before slaughter.

It showed graphic footages of how the animals were being brutally whipped and kicked and banged their heads against concrete floors where they lie helplessly, and even being slashed with knives repeatedly.

This cruelty provoked a public outcry for the government to act, thus, the suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia.

Having been connected with a multi-national meat processing company with its own abattoir for the slaughter of small and large animals, I felt nothing but pity for the animals and outrage at the way the animals were being mistreated before slaughtering them.

It is bad enough that they are doomed and their meat used to feed humanity, but why inflict more harm and injury to the animal?

The rule of thumb is to treat and slaughter these animals, whether small or large, humanely. By humanely, we mean rendering the animal insensitive to pain before being killed. In the case of small animals, like hogs, they are stunned by electric shock behind their ears before hanging them upside down and sticking them to bleed. In large animals, like cattle, a blow to the head by a stun gun is all that is needed before hanging, sticking, bleeding, removing its hide and eviscerating it.

The slaughtering becomes inhumane when the stunning equipment malfunctions, to cruel consequences for the animals.

To avoid the ban of live cattle shipment from becoming a nasty diplomatic row, both countries are now faced with the challenge of how to develop strategies to improve animal welfare in relation to the slaughter of cattle in Indonesia.

Australia exports more than 700,000 cattle each year, the vast majority of it to Indonesia, a Muslim country. It is estimated that 40% of halal (Kosher) beef eaten in Indonesia comes from Australian cattle.

The animal welfare has to be resolved and the ban lifted or it will create more problems in Australia as, sooner or later, rural livelihood of Australian farmers will be vastly affected.



China sowing fear in the South China Sea


Chinese fortification on Mischief reef

If this is not a show of muscle flexing and bullying by the mighty on the poor and weak nations, I don’t know what is.

This has reference to the issue of sovereignty over the Spratly islands which are claimed in whole or in part by China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines.

This territorial dispute is contentious, complex, and, yes, very volatile, and may be an emerging hotspot, especially that China, a military and economic powerhouse, has built a massive 5-storey fortification on Mischief Reef which portends its interest in and control of the area. The area is believed to hold vast oil and gas reserves.

Needless to say, China is claiming all of the reefs and atolls found in the South China Sea, even when it is situated in the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Mischief Reef, which is locally known as Panganiban Reef, is located within the Philippine’s 200-mile EEZ.

What has been insistently portrayed before as shelter for Chinese fishermen in the area has now metamorphosed into a military complex with sophisticated listening and observing devises being employed to monitor the presence of “trespassers.”

This was brought up by Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in the recent Asia-Pacific Forum in Singapore where he told China’s Defense Minister Liang Guanglie that “actions by other states … unnecessarily make other states like the Philippines worried and concerned”.

“Such a sense of insecurity also results when ordinary fishermen are warned by foreign vessels prompting them to leave the area,” Gazmin said.

Gazmin was referring of course to an incident in the latter part of May when the Chinese navy opened fire on Filipino fishermen for “trespassing.” Other incidents mentioned were the earlier intimidations made by the Chinese navy on a Philippine oil exploration vessel and the putting up of posts and buoys in Philippine-claimed areas in the Spratlys.

It was also in May that Vietnam suffered the same kind of bullying when Chinese ships confronted a Vietnamese oil exploration vessel between the Paracels and Spratlys.

The recurring tensions drew a warning from US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said that “the territorial dispute could lead to armed conflict unless nations with conflicting claims adopt a  mechanism to settle disputes peacefully.” Indeed, a very reassuring warning for small claimant nations.

Allaying fears, China’s Guanglie said that China was committed to “peace and stability” in the potentially resource-rich South China Sea area and insisted the situation “remains stable”.

It remains to be seen.



Identical, inseparable twin Franciscan friars die same day at 92


Julian and Adrian Riester

This could be one for Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

The biological brothers were not only twin in every sense of the word, but the year they were born, 1919, made their existence even more poetic, as it was divine.

They were originally named Jerome and Irving Riester, until they joined the Franciscan order in their 20s, adopting the names of saints and became Julian and Adrian Riester, respectively.

Needless to say that from the time they were born (none of them said who was born first), the twins could rarely be seen separated from each other. They lived together, ate together, played together, went to school together, traveled together and worked together, when both joined the religious order – together.

Julian and Adrian committed their lives to the monastic life of Franciscan friars, not as priests, but as pious laymen who devote themselves to useful works using manual labor.

Thus, they spent 35 years working together on tasks including carpentry and gardening at St. Bonaventure University in New York.

“They became known as accomplished artisans who expressed their talents as gardeners and woodworkers, turning out tables and cabinets from their workshop in the garage of St. Bonaventure’s Franciscan Friary,” one news source says of them.

And so, as everything in life comes to an end, so has the lives of these two religious brothers ended, but together.

It was sadly announced by St. Bonaventure University that, after 65 years as identical twins wearing the identical brown robes of the Franciscans, Brother Julian Riester and Brother Adrian Riester died together of the same causes of heart failure at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Florida, where they retired two years ago. Julian died in the morning, followed by Adrian in the evening.

If the time of the twin’s death any clue as to who was born first, then, perhaps, this is it.

God bless their souls.


Chinese teenager sells kidney to own iPad2


Apple's iPad2 was recently sold in China

This story is not new.

Organ trafficking has been going on for some time now victimizing the poorest of the poor. This is due largely to the fact that the impoverished barely has enough money for food, medicine and other basic necessities for himself and family.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, the countries identified as among the top five organ-trafficking hotspots are Pakistan, Colombia, Egypt, China and the Philippines.

Organ trafficking is the removal and sale of ones organ mostly with the person’s consent, but at times done unscrupulously by getting the victims drugged or drunk only to wake up being scarred for life.

Kidney transplant has become a commercial enterprise treating the organ as a commodity sold in black market. But, almost always the broker who buys and sells ones healthy kidney earns more than those they got it from.

The advent of the internet has made it possible for moneyed recipients in need badly of these organs to travel to these hotspots and have organ transplants performed then and there by transplant professionals who are generously compensated.

This in effect was what happened to the Chinese boy who wanted badly to own an iPad2.

After coming across advertisement online offering money to organ donors, this 17- year old boy, known only as Little Zheng, proffered his kidney for sale and was accepted.

It was reported that illegal agents organized a trip to the hospital and paid him $3,392 (£2,077) after the operation.

Little Zheng’s mother, being suspicious of his deep red scar on his body and the presence of electronic gadgets in the house, got a confession later from his son on what he went through to acquire an iPad2 and a laptop.

Germany to phase out nuclear power by 2022

Chancellor Angela Merkel

After the reunification in 1990, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to phase out the use of all nuclear power by 2022 will yet be another best that will ever happen to this economically strong German state.

The Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, considered the world’s worst nuclear accident that killed, endangered and displaced hundreds of thousands of people and vastly contaminated pristine forests and farmlands from its radioactive fallout may have haunted the German government no end.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan brought about by a powerful earthquake, which in turn caused giant tsunami, may very well have sealed its fate to have nuclear power plants mothballed in all of Germany.

According to The New York Times, Germany shut down seven plants in March after the Fukushima nuclear explosion and will close down its remaining plants during the next ten years.

It will be noted that after the Japanese crisis, Germany’s seven oldest reactors went into close scrutiny for safety review and was later decided not to operate them anymore. An eighth nuclear plant called the Kruemmel in northern Germany, which has not been operating because of plaguing technical problem, has also been decommissioned for good.

There are six operational plants that is being planned to go offline by 2011and the three newest by 2022.

The negative public opinion shown by the German people following Japan’s nuclear crisis coupled with the assurance by the Ethics Commission for Secure Energy that an alternative source of energy can be put in place during the next ten years has hasten the decision to renounce nuclear energy for good.

Renewable energy resources

The renewable sources of energy being studied and planned for use in the very near future is a combination of wind, solar, and water power, and the harnessing of geothermal energy, and biomass energy from waste.

The transition to alternative and renewable energy, thus, makes Germany the first industrialized nation to reject the further use of nuclear power plants and embrace with determination and commitment the use of renewable and environmentally friendly energy to fuel the economy of the future.

“We want the electricity of the future to be safe, but also to remain reliable and affordable,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement.

Another world’s most wanted, Gen. Mladic, captured


Ex-Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic before and during his capture 16 years later

This augurs well for the world, perhaps.

Two of the world’s top criminals have been taken off from the list of the most wanted fugitives.

First, America’s most wanted, the infamous terrorist and founder and leader of the famed al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was killed earlier this month by US ground forces in Pakistan after ten years of hiding.

A few days ago, Europe’s most wanted for the worst atrocities committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Gen. Ratko Mladic, was captured in Serbia after having been on the run since 1995, when he was indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

It must be remembered that Gen. Mladic was the top commander of the Bosnian Serb army during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, who allegedly led the forces that attacked the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, a UN-declared safe area, which left more than 100,000 people dead and drove another 1.8 million from their homes. In early July that year, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were executed by Serbian forces.

It was reported during that time that just hours before the massacre, Mladic handed out candy to Muslim children in the town’s square, assuring them everything would be fine and patting one child on the head. Then the shootings began and the bodies of the victims were bulldozed into mass graves.

Ratko Mladic was hiding under an alias Milorad Komadic in a village called Lazarevo, where masked police officers surprised him as he was heading for a walk, having a hard time sleeping. Lazarevo is where some of his relatives are living and, supposedly, protecting him.

But, just the same, at 69 years of age, his frail health has slowed him down and with his gray hair, it made him unnoticeable by many in the neighborhood. What has been imprinted in the minds of many people was Mladic’s robust, uniformed figure strutting in front of the cameras during the Bosnian war.

Mladic had two loaded pistol with him when he was roughly tackled to the floor. When asked to identify himself, the alleged murderer could only whisper his name, saying, “I’m Ratko Mladic.”