Rotisserie rat or fricasseed fox anyone?
This latest food scandal is a doozy. 900 plus people have been arrested in a months long investigation. Rat, mink and fox carcasses have been doctored and sold in farmers’ markets as mutton or lamb. Normally none of those animals are considered suitable for human consumption. None of the meat will have been tested for disease or cleanliness.
To date, CCTV News is reporting that the authorities have uncovered 322 cases of the criminal deception, amounting to 20 000 tonnes of mystery meat. The take by the fraudsters is edging up into the millions of dollars. In Wuxi, in east China's Jiangsu Province, suspects made fake mutton from fox, mink and rat by adding chemicals. The products were sold to markets and the suspects made more than 10 million yuan (1.62 million U.S. dollars) from the illegal activities. CCTV News
The rat meat was sold in Shanghai, Wuxi and Jiangsu Province.
China is struggling to provide its people with clean, unadulterated food while also stretching its limits to become a major exporter of food stuffs. Numerous scandals over the past few years have included melamine in baby formula, baby food so adulterated that it contained little nutritional value, diseased meat in the food supply, “gutter” cooking oil.
China has become an industrial powerhouse over the past two decades but at a huge cost to its water supplies. Many rivers are unsafe to use at all. Much ground water is also suspect. This has had those with enough money turning to bottled mineral water for drinking. The consumption of bottled water accelerated this spring when thousands of dead, rotting pigs were found floating in the main water supply for Shanghai.
While the tap water in China’s towns and cities has long been considered polluted and boiled water in thermoses used to be the norm for drinking, the new norm is spring water or mineral water. Radio Free Asia
has released information about the standards to which bottled water is held. It turns out that standards have not been reviewed since the 50s and that standard is lower than for tap water. Tap water is subject to 106 tests. Bottled only 20.A short You Tube film on this subject can be found at this link.
Are these sweet little things killing people?
The first confirmed case of Avian Influenza H7N9 outside of China has been confirmed. A Taiwanese man returning from China is currently hospitalized with the virus. The unidentified man is reported to have had no contact with birds or poultry and had not consumed underdone chicken or eggs.
While there is yet no evidence that the flu is spreading by person to person transmission, there is the bad news that the H7N9 version is better able to pass from birds to humans than the H5N1 version. "This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses we have seen so far," Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director-general for health security, said at a media briefing in Beijing Wendesday, the Associated Press reported.
The new virus has sickened 109 people and killed 22 of those in spite of receiving modern hospital care. It has been detected in seven provinces of China.
Currently the World Health Organization(WHO) is watching the situation closely, but has not issued travel restriction advisories. They have dispatched a team of influenza experts to Beijing to work closely with Chinese scientists in an attempt to get answers. Dr. Michael O’Leary, WHO representative in Beijing is quoted: “Our team includes international and Chinese experts in epidemiology, laboratories, clinical management, and other areas. We will be meeting with a wide range of experts.”WHO
Dr. O’Leary emphasized that this is an example of the willingness of the PRC officials to find answers and solutions and does not indicate a ramping up of the risk assessment.
Are these chickens getting revenge?
The emerging bird flu, H7N9, continues to baffle the medical experts. It has claimed 17 lives to date and counts 83 sickened by the virus. It has shown up in Shanghai and Beijing and in four provinces. There are family clusters of the illness, but still no clear path of infection. Feng Zijian, Director of Chinese Ctr for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "Further investigations are still under way to figure out whether the family cluster involved human-to-human transmission, as for now we haven’t discovered any such cases." CCTV English
The disease has been found mainly among those who are in close association with live poultry. Live poultry markets have been shut down in many cities and thousands of birds have been slaughtered. The virus has been found sporadically in chickens, partridges and pigeons but there is suspicion that wild birds may be the reservoir for the virus. It has been difficult to track the spread of the flu because it apparently does not make birds very ill. The birds appear healthy and so have a long time to spread the virus to vulnerable hosts.
This outbreak of H7N9 virus has had an economic impact on China. The losses in the poultry sector have reached the equivalent of US $2 billion. In addition, tourism, the restaurant business and factory production have all taken a hit.
Questions around the outbreak continue to swirl in spite of assurances from health providers that a pandemic is not imminent. The detention of netizens in China for tweeting about the flu have spawned more questions and speculation. Those people falling ill with severe respiratory symptoms must reach modern health care facilities in order to be accurately diagnosed, so more people may be ill than the official figures show.
While no cases of the influenza have been reported outside of the PRC, the US Center for Disease Control(CDC) has sent out information to physicians advising them to consider the possibility that people exhibiting severe respiratory symptoms and a high fever may be ill with H7N9. They went on to warn those Americans travelling to China to refrain from touching birds or pigs and to make sure that any meat they ate was thoroughly cooked.
Virus budding out of cell.
The H7N9 bird flu has now shown up in Beijing. It has made a seven year old child ill. CCTV
is reporting that the girl is in stable condition in hospital. They are reporting that her parents are in the poultry business. How the disease is being transmitted remains a mystery.
The total confirmed number of people sickened by the new disease is now 44 with 11 of those dying. The disease at a 25% kill rate has spooked many in Shanghai who have taken to wearing masks to protect against catching it. Chinese authorities have detained 10 bloggers who, it is alleged, have been spreading “fake information” about the disease according to information from Radio Free Asia
For those struck by the H7N9 virus, the outcome is bleak. Complications include brain inflammation, severe pneumonia, blood poisoning and multiple organ failure. It may be that only the most ill have been admitted to care facilities.
The H7N9 virus is particularly worrisome in that it doesn’t make chickens fatally ill quickly. A flock may be infected but not show symptoms so the virus has a long time to spread. It has a mutation that allows it to thrive at body temperatures below what is normally found in birds. Mammals operate at a lower temperature. Vaccines that have been developed for similar viruses aren’t very effective. There are no existing US tests for this virus, but Beijing has developed some and will be sharing with N. American labs. No vaccine against this emerging disease will be available for some months.
Chinese authorities are taking steps to contain this disease. Live poultry markets have been banned in many cities; live bird exchanges have been restricted; carrier pigeon flights have been suspended; people who work closely with birds will be closely monitored. A key component of containing this outbreak is early detection and treatment. It is therefore most interesting to read this in one of the CCTV releases. “The government has prohibited the medical institutions from delaying treatment or buckpassing due to the cost.” CCTV
China's favorite meat. Marketed differently there.
Two men are dead and a woman is fighting for her life in hospital. The three are victims of a novel form of bird flu(avian influenza). While the Chinese government is seeking to assure the public that this is an anomaly, some speculate that this may signal the start of a new epidemic. The new strain of flu is named H7N9. There is no evidence at this time that there was human to human transmission of the virus.
The World Health Organization is keeping a watchful eye on the situation. Bird flu of various strains erupts periodically in the human population prompting mass killing of live birds and shutting down bird markets.
The health regulations in the PRC are often ignored with impunity. Recently over 15 000 dead pigs were fished out of a river that supplies drinking water to Shanghai. About 20 000 pigs were reported dead of an epidemic up river. Sometimes diseased animals find their way into the food chain.
Pigs, birds and people are often in close and long lasting proximity to each other. As well, these conditions are often poor and personal hygiene is difficult, making the transfer of nasal excretions far more likely.
Pigs, birds and people can sometimes infect each other with viruses. They may recombine to turn virulent and cause an epidemic. The infamous Spanish Flu that killed about 50 million shortly after WWI was likely a swine flu. Other more recent killer influenzas were the Asian Flu up to 4 million deaths(1957-58) and, Hong Kong Flu one million deaths(1968-69).
The world looks to Asia as the source of avian flu outbreaks. Also originating in China was the deadly outbreak of SARS(SARS-CoV) or Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome which threatened to burn through the world via air traffic. That deadly threat was fortunately stopped after relatively few deaths due to good medical care and effective quarantine efforts. The Chinese government was accused of covering up the new disease at its source, allowing the virus to escape to the rest of the world.
Currently, WHO is carefully watching the few reported cases coming out of the Middle East of 17 confirmed cases of a virus similar to the SARS virus. This deadly virus has taken 11 lives out of the 17 confirmed cases.
Hackers can reach into your computer.
B. McPherson Computer security
firm Mandiant has released a report outing the Chinese government behind computer hacking into businesses. The firms attacked are primarily in N. America and Europe. They refer to these attacks as Advanced Persistent Attacks
(APT). Until recently suspicion was directed at the PRC but proof was lacking. When the Chinese government is notified of these suspicions, they vehemently deny any involvement.
The report that Mandiant released is scathing in its detail and evidence of a cyber war being perpetrated on the world. It makes for very interesting reading. “APT1 has systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations, and has demonstrated the capability and intent to steal from dozens of organizations simultaneously.”4 Mandiant Report
Once the hackers gain entrance to a business, they loot the company of information, continuing until either caught or having sucked all the information they needed, withdraw. Unlike many hackers, Mandiant said that these are “noisy” and seem unconcerned that their trail leads back to the PRC.
The conclusions of this security firm leave no doubt that the APTs come from China and are probably conducted by a branch of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Beijing is waging a massive trade war on us all, and we should band together to pressure them to stop. Combined, the United States and our allies in Europe and Asia have significant diplomatic and economic leverage over China, and we should use this to our advantage to put an end to this scourge.”US Rep Mike Rogers Oct 2011
Cyber warfare is an emerging world threat. Whether it is stealing information, snooping through defense computers or interfering with infrastructure functioning it threatens our health and safety. China has emerged as a military and economic giant in the past 30 years. It is spreading its influence throughout emerging societies. When the costs of research for new products can be bypassed by stealing them, one can gain an enormous price advantage.
Is the relationship too cozy?
China has admitted to the world that it harvests organs from condemned prisoners. It has a great many condemned because there are many offenses that call for the death penalty. Rumours have been slipping out of the murky world of organ tourism in China about the harvesting of organs from prisoners who are alive, at least until they die from the removal of their organs.
Organs taken from live donors have a better success rate than those taken from corpses.
One of the crimes for which death may be the punishment is belonging to the wrong religious affiliation. It is believed that to date about 65 000 Falun Gong adherents have given their organs(and their lives) to be transplanted.
Many Uyghurs are Moslem. They are remnants of people who settled along the ancient Silk Route and speak a distinctive language and have distinct customs from the Han Chinese majority. Some have been agitating for an independent state from the PRC. Ethan Gutmann
* has taken it upon himself to investigate whispers among the Uyghur community that since an uprising in 2009 thousands of men and boys have been “disappeared”. Attempts to find out from authorities their whereabouts have proved futile. Gutmann said he was aware of Chinese nuclear tests in Xinjiang during the 1960s and of allegations of birth defects and unusual cancers among the Uyghur population and “couldn’t help but wonder if the region was being used as a testing ground again, this time, for live organ harvesting.” Radio Free Asia
Over 20 years ago, it was possible to schedule a needed kidney transplant in China, if you had the cash. Now, with better trained surgeons and modern facilities, think of all the money to be made harvesting healthy organs – kidneys, livers, corneas, hearts, lungs, bone marrow.
The world seems to be turning a blind eye on this barbaric practise. Kosovo was the target of censure when word leaked out about its transplant industry. Can it be that the western societies are so far in debt to China that they can’t afford to condemn forced organ transplants?
*Ethan Gutmann is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the author of Losing the New China.
Disposable diapers, status symbols for Chinese middle class
While many new moms in N. America and Europe fret over the waste generated by using disposable diapers, new moms in China are embracing the throwaways. They have become a status symbol among the new middle class. They have become wealthy enough to be able to throw things away after just one use.
This brings about a revolution in the potty training of babies in China. Until now, the most widely accepted way to toilet train babies and toddlers was to use the split pants method. Caregivers would train the youngsters to “go” on cue. It was a common sight in China twenty years or so ago to see small ones squatting and relieving themselves in the city streets.
Whatever your opinion about poop in the streets, the custom is fast waning in the cities as more people attain a middle class standard of living. While it has made the sidewalks and people’s shoes cleaner, the jury is still out on the long term effects of millions of disposable diapers on garbage disposal.
In a stroke of genius by marketers for Proctor & Gamble
, makers of Pampers disposable diapers a campaign of “Golden Sleep” was launched. It asserted that babies who wore Pampers would sleep better. This appealed directly to parents who fussed over their one child.
The next step in marketing was to link the “Golden Sleep” to better cognitive performance. The parents ate it up. Competition is fierce for top jobs and any edge a parent could give was taken.
The campaign has been so successful that there are now four companies besides P&G manufacturing the throwaways in the PRC. The American company is responding by investing $1 billion dollars in manufacturing plants inside China. They are aiming at adding a billion new customers by 2015.
Balanced against the investments in China is P&G’s trimming of expenses within the US. According to Rightsite
, they are planning to lay off 5 700 workers in the US over the next year, saving them enough money to invest in emerging markets.
In spite of tight controls of news leaving Tibet, word has leaked out of yet another person who has set himself on fire to protest the rule of China. Self-immolations have continued in various locations throughout Tibet since 2009. The eighth person this week reported to have killed himself in this way was a 19 year old youth. The best estimate is that at least 70 people have burnt themselves to death protesting the Chinese occupation.
Civil unrest is harshly dealt with in Tibet. In spite of the danger, earlier this month students ripped down Chinese flags on their school in Dowa township. Several thousand young people demonstrated Friday in Rebgong County expressing their demands for equality. “Chinese leaders selected during the 18th Party Congress must recognize that China’s hardline policies in Tibet have utterly failed and only through dialogue can a peaceful and lasting solution be found," Lobsang Sangay, the head of the exile government, said this week.The head of the Tibetan government in exile in India spoke about the cycle of self-immolations.”Radio Free Asia
It is believed that the self-immolations and civil disobedience has ramped up to draw attention to the plight of the Tibetans while the government is holding its once a decade power shift. The 18th Party Congress in Beijing will choose a new leader to steer policy.
China maintains that Tibet is a province and has maintained control over the formerly independent country since the 1950s. The then leader, the Dalai Lama fled to India where a government in exile has been maintained.
For more information on the situation in Tibet the Central Tibetan Administratio
n (gov’t in exile) has an active web page.
Protesters in the town of Ningbo China have been jailed on various charges. Mass protests have been taking place to protest plans for an expansion of petrochemical refining capacity. Over 100 people were detained. Some were released but about 50 people are facing criminal charges.
The city of Ningbo is a major port and industrial city that has rivers and access to the Yellow Sea. Industries include chemical refining, pharmaceuticals and biotech as well as large petroleum capacity. Authorities want to increase the refining capacity by 15 million tons per year.
Part of the emissions released during the refining process is paraxylene(xylene) which is poisonous. It can affect the central nervous system, damage liver and kidneys, and in higher doses cause death. The petrochemical plant produced 500 000 tons of the chemical last year, but lax pollution controls mean that a significant amount of toxins are released into the atmosphere.
Authorities have agreed to a moratorium on the plant’s expansion. They have also suppressed news within China about the civil unrest.
Last August authorities agreed to close a petrochemical plant in Dalian, China when protesters demanded that the plant be moved to a less populated area. The catalyst for the protesters action was a near miss when a tropical storm pushed waves into the factory grounds. By January of 2012 observers reported emissions from the factory and it appeared to be operating as normal. Other reports claim that the production has ramped up. “Production at the Dalian plant had increased from 700,000 metric tons annually, to 1.4 million metric tons, the Eastern Daily News reported.
The article was unavailable on the popular Chinese Internet search engine Sohu on Tuesday, however.” Radio Free Asia
Paraxylene is an important chemical used in the making of polyesters. China imports much of its petroleum. Canada’s federal government is backing a consortium of investors who wish to build a pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Pacific coast to facilitate the selling of the sandy mixture to Asia. Opposition to the scheme is growing.
The state owned Chinese oil company Sinopec, is a major player in the oil sands projects and seeks to become a bigger one in the future, offering to buy a Canadian owned company Nexen, at a premium price.