“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, July 06, 2007

Made in China. Was your Catfish Hooked on Drugs?

When you hear the word, “Icelandic”, one thinks of clear cold fjords, clear crisp air and water, and an unspoiled clean environment. All of which is true. Iceland is what you expect it to be. Seafood from Iceland is excellent. However, we may have an issue here.

Seems as if there is a seafood company called Icelandic USA, which sells US consumers catfish from China. China is about as un-Icelandic as you can get. The only fjords in China are mispelled automobiles. In many places, China is an open sewer, especially the southeast. It is polluted, the air is hideous and the waters may be fit to rinse iron slag but trust me on this one, you do not want your catfish grown in them.

This article in the Washington Post should get lots and lots of attention. It represents a real dilemma with some crucial aspects of free global trade. Free trade between very different cultures can have some very dangerous consequences. Food quality is just one of them.

American growers, farmers and industry operate with many tough and expected regulations designed to protect the American consumer. Free trade with China has ruined many of these producers and made them look like fools to try and compete with a China disconnected from even rudimentary responsible business practices. Better start reading your labels.

Farmed in China's Foul Waters, Imported Fish Treated With Drugs
Traditional Medicine, Banned Chemicals Both Used

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 6, 2007; Page A01

WUGONG LAKE, China -- Perched above the banks of the catfish farm he owns is Zhu Zhiqiu's secret weapon for breeding healthy fish: the medicine shed. Inside are iodine bottles, vitamin packets and Chinese herbal concoctions that he claims substitute for antibiotics.

Zhu's fish farm, in a village on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, sends about 2.7 million catfish fillets each year to the United States through an importer in Virginia. Despite his best efforts -- he has dozens of employees clearing trash from the water each day, and the fish are fed sacks of fish meal more expensive than rice -- Zhu's fish sometimes get sick. Then he brings out the drugs.

"It's standard practice," he said. "Everyone uses them to keep fish healthy."

Chinese exporters like him have seized much of the U.S. market, accounting for 22 percent of all imports, because their fish are cheaper to raise.

The fish are being raised, however, in a country whose waterways are an ongoing environmental problem, tainted by sewage, pesticides, heavy metals and other pollutants. The situation is worst in the southern half of the country, where Zhu's farm is and where industrial runoff accumulates.

Like other fish farmers throughout the world, catfish growers in China turn to a variety of potions. But the extent to which they use traditional Chinese medicine, which cannot be tested for as easily in the Western countries that import fish, is unusual. Zhu claims to use only safe and legal drugs, but it was clear that some of his competitors have not been so scrupulous.

The competitors spike the water with banned substances to keep their farmed fish alive. Batches of seafood traded at the Shanghai fish market this week, for example, carried the tell-tale greenish tinge of malachite green, a disinfectant powder that has been banned in China for five years because it is a suspected carcinogen but is still commonly used.

Illegal substances like malachite green keep showing up in Chinese seafood shipped to the United States, provoking a partial U.S. ban on such shipments last week. It was the latest development in an ongoing global awakening about the risks of Chinese-made products, from toys tainted with lead paint to pet-food ingredients containing a deadly industrial chemical.

Using illegal disinfectants and antibiotics "is a lazy way of raising fish," Zhu said. "But it is extremely effective."

Many of the "Southern-style" catfish fillets on U.S. grocery shelves these days are indeed from the south -- of China.


  1. When I was a younger human, our family imported large amounts of swordfish from Asia, Japan, which we sold to institutional outlets.

    Then, lo' and behold, it was discovered that swordfish from Asia contained large amounts of mercury. Well, trace amounts anyway.

    So much for the swordfish importing and distribution business.

    Catfish or toothpaste.

    No telling what you are putting in your mouth.

  2. But the Chinese additives not a scary as "mad cow" from Canada.

  3. ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Associated Press) -- Shots were fired after President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's plane took off from a military base on Friday in what one official described as a failed assassination attempt.

    "It was an unsuccessful effort by miscreants to target the president's plane," a senior security official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the record. "They fled quickly, and our security agencies are still investigating."

    Security forces quickly surrounded a house in Rawalpindi, a garrison city south of the capital. Three other officials told the AP that two anti-aircraft guns and a light machine gun were found on the rooftop.

  4. Meanwhile in the "Race for the White House"

    Loans make the difference

    McCain isn’t the only candidate with burn rate issues. Mitt Romney managed to mask his by lending his campaign $6.5 million in the second quarter – a sum that accounts for nearly a third of the total cash he raised in the second quarter: $20.5 million. He loaned himself $2.4 million in the first quarter.

    He ranks as the Republican presidential field’s top money raiser and spender, collecting $44 million from supporters since January and spending $32 million. Like McCain, he has opened offices outside the early-state perimeters, including in Michigan and Florida.

    After spending about $4 million on television advertising, Romney’s average monthly burn rate for overhead expenses is running around $4.7 million. Only the candidate’s infusion of $9 million in personal loans prevented his campaign from reporting a second-quarter cash balance as strikingly low as McCain’s.

    It's Burn, baby, burn: GOP contenders' worry

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  6. Back when Jr was in the sandbox, looks like his "brothers" may have stepped out of bounds.

    Same "Band of Brothers" that later went to Haditha, and had another set of legal difficulties.

    A cultural or tribal dysfunction or the System merely running as programed, but with a "glitch" here and there?

    SAN DIEGO (Associated Press) -- The Navy is investigating claims that Camp Pendleton Marines killed between five and 10 unarmed captives during a fierce battle in Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004, current and former Marines told The Associated Press.

    The criminal probe centers on the actions of several members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, they told the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

    Different members of the same unit were later accused of wrongdoing in the killings of 24 civilians in Haditha in 2005.

    The investigation was launched when Ryan Weemer, a former Marine corporal injured while fighting in Fallujah, applied for a job with the Secret Service, according to an online report by military author Nathaniel Helms, who interviewed Weemer last year. When asked during a polygraph test if he had ever participated in a wrongful death, Weemer described the killings of the suspected insurgents, Helms wrote.

    Weemer, 24, originally from Hindsboro, Ill., could not be reached for comment, but his sister Felicia Hudson said he was trying to put the event behind him.

    "He does not like to talk about it," Hudson said. "He is very proud to be a Marine but he wants to get past all this and look to the future."

    The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has confirmed it is investigating "credible allegations of wrongdoing made against U.S. Marines" in Fallujah in the fall of 2004, but NCIS has not described the nature of the allegations.

  7. High toxin levels in Japanese fisheries remains a problem. Our sea food debacle, that would have been in '68. Here is a story from 2003 discussing that topic:
    ... because of fears of mercury poisoning.

    These include the bright-red sea bream called kinmedai and swordfish, both of which are expensive delicacies. The seven fish species that are the subjects of the warning also include cheaper tuna and shark, and sperm whale.

    "The public is very concerned," said Kazuhiko Tsurumi, who is coordinating the warning and response effort. ...

    ... The health worries about mercury date to the mid-1950s, when villagers in Minamata, Japan, began complaining of numbness, dizziness, and other nerve symptoms. Cats were said to be "committing suicide," and birds were falling from the sky.

    It turned out that a local chemical factory had dumped about 27 tons of mercury into nearby waters over the decades, and the mercury was concentrated -- bio-accumulated -- in fish eaten by all the injured parties. "Minamata disease" proved that high concentrations of mercury could kill and cause grievous injury.

    Just how much of a health threat is low-level mercury contamination?

  8. 83 people die in Panama from medicine with Chinese toxin
    Death toll expected to rise from products tainted with diethylene glycol

    PANAMA CITY -- Eighty-three people have died in Panama after taking medicines contaminated with a Chinese-made toxin last year and the death toll is expected to rise, a senior prosecutor said on Thursday.

    Read more at the Vancouver Sun

  9. In many regards this is the reason the family moved to the desert, and became cowboys, 'tween dealing with the Japs and then the poisoned in perceptions of peoples minds, fish:

    For information about the likely outcome of eating fish with low levels of methyl mercury, scientists look to studies of persons exposed to high levels; in particular, studies of two poisoning episodes from highly contaminated fish in Japan in the 1960's, and another poisoning incident in Iraq in the 1970's involving contaminated grain.

    In the first episode, which occurred in Minimata, Japan, 111 people died or became very ill (mostly from nervous system damage) from eating fish (often daily over extended periods) from waters that were severely polluted with mercury from local industrial discharge.

    Following a similar incident in Nigata, Japan, where 120 person were poisoned, studies showed that the harm caused by methyl mercury poisoning, particularly the neurological symptoms, can progress over a period of years after exposure has ended. The average mercury content of fish samples from both areas ranged from 9 to 24 ppm, though in Minimata, some fish were found to have levels as high as 40 ppm. Fortunately, no similar incidents have occurred in the United States.

    The best indexes of exposure to methyl mercury are concentrations in hair and blood. The average concentrations of total mercury in non-exposed people is about 8 parts per billion (ppb) in blood and 2 ppm in hair. From the Japanese studies, toxicologists have learned that the lowest mercury level in adults associated with toxic effects (paresthesia) was 200 ppb in blood and 50 ppm in hair, accumulated over months to years of eating contaminated food.

  10. Just eat Idaho lentils, you can't go wrong, healthy, nutritious, help an American farmer, though you will pass a lot of gas afterwards. That's good too though as it clears out the bowels. Other than that you could eat the road kill around here, there is plenty of it, deer, turtles, possum, and fresh too,new batch everyday. Beats Chinese.

  11. In December, Wikipedia made tentative steps towards advertising. Virgin Unite, the charitable arm of Richard Branson’s stable of companies, offered to match every dollar raised during a fundraising stint in return for a logo at the top of each page. But the uproar among the website’s core users was deafening, with one prolific contributor resigning his membership amid high publicity.

    This taps into a core problem with Wikipedia. Although it is often spoken of as an encyclopaedia written by millions of users, the reality is quite different. While there are 4.5m registered Wikipedia users, the majority of page alterations are carried out by a small, hardcore group of contributors; 2% of all users make 73.4% of all edits. And, according to Wells, the real community behind Wikipedia consists of a few hundred volunteers who know each other personally and have regular face-to-face meetings.

    For this group of hardcore users, advertising is a serious problem. Around a hundred of them have signed up to a group called “Wikimedians against Advertisements” out of concern that commercial content could damage Wikipedia’s success. But more prevalent is a misplaced anger towards advertising in general; one user argues that it “consists of half-truths, omissions, misrepresentations, irrelevant associations and outright lies” and “is the very antithesis of verifiable and neutral information”.

    That this ideological bias against advertising is so prevalent amongst Wikipedia’s core contributors is worrying and poses questions about the impartiality of much of the site’s content. For the most part, Wikipedia’s rule that articles must be written from a neutral point of view is observed; however, arguments regularly lead to the deletion of facts or entire pages. If the coterie which is responsible for so much of Wikipedia’s policy and editorial processes is in one mind about the ethics of advertising, it poses serious questions about what other controversial views they share and how this affects the reliability of other entries.

    Without this hardcore group of users, the massive improvements that have taken place on the site in recent years – including better accuracy and the citing of sources – would not have been possible. But they should not be able to hold the site to ransom; since its inception in 2001, the online encyclopaedia has barely changed and still lacks the rich video and audio content which is now so popular online.

    Some third-party sites are already monetising Wikipedia’s content

  12. The chinese are even hurting themselves with their blatant disregard for rules. There was the hideous fake formula milk incident which caused severe malnutrition in many infants in one of the provinces.

    The chinese, as they stand now, have almost zero consideration for others in whatever they do. It's me, me, me, and to heck with other people. It's shown in their traffic, the way they squeeze into their railways, whenever they open a door. I've found it interesting and ironic that one sees this in a formerly communist country where Mao's ideals were for everyone to contribute to the greater good, but what has evolved, even before Deng's liberalization, is that it engendered the opposite attitudes.

    Conversely, it seems that it's the capitalist societies that have people willing to donate time, money, and food towards helping others, and be socially responsible enough in that we do not put out products that we already know would harm others.