Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt Mud Cakes

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Rising Food Costs Force Haiti’s Poor to Resort to Eating Dirt

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

It was lunchtime in one of Haiti’s worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.

The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

Yolen Jeunky arranges dried mud cookies for sale in a bucket in Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Nov. 29, 2007. (Ariana Cubillos/ AP Photo)

“When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day,” Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth.

Though she likes their buttery, salty taste, Charlene said the cookies also give her stomach pains. “When I nurse, the baby sometimes seems colicky too,” she said.

Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.

A woman dries mud cookies in the sun on the the roof of Fort Dimanche, once a prison, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nov. 29, 2007. Rising prices and food shortages are threatening Haiti’s fragile stability, and the mud cookies, made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening, are one of very few options the poorest people have to stave off hunger. (Ariana Cubillos/ AP Photo)

The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places.

The global price hikes, together with floods and crop damage from the 2007 hurricane season, prompted the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency to declare states of emergency in Haiti and several other Caribbean countries. Caribbean leaders held an emergency summit in December to discuss cutting food taxes and creating large regional farms to reduce dependence on imports.

At the market in the La Saline slum, two cups of rice now sell for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.

The hand of a woman is covered in mud as she makes mud cookies on the roof of Fort Dimanche, Nov. 30, 2007. (Ariana Cubillos/ AP Photo)

Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared to food staples. About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy.

Merchants truck the dirt from the central town of Hinche to the La Saline market, a maze of tables of vegetables and meat swarming with flies. Women buy the dirt, then process it into mud cookies in places such as Fort Dimanche, a nearby shanty town.

Carrying buckets of dirt and water up ladders to the roof of the former prison for which the slum is named, they strain out rocks and clumps on a sheet, and stir in shortening and salt. Then they pat the mixture into mud cookies and leave them to dry under the scorching sun.

The finished cookies are carried in buckets to markets or sold on the streets.

A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.

Assessments of the health effects are mixed. Dirt can contain deadly parasites or toxins, but can also strengthen the immunity of fetuses in the womb to certain diseases, said Gerald N. Callahan, an immunology professor at Colorado State University who has studied geophagy, the scientific name for dirt-eating.

Haitian doctors say depending on the cookies for sustenance risks malnutrition.

Yolen Jeunky prepares cookies made of dirt, water, salt and butter on the the roof of Fort Dimanche. (Ariana Cubillos/ AP Photo)

“Trust me, if I see someone eating those cookies, I will discourage it,” said Dr. Gabriel Thimothee, executive director of Haiti’s health ministry.

Marie Noel, 40, sells the cookies in a market to provide for her seven children. Her family also eats them.

“I’m hoping one day I’ll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these,” she said. “I know it’s not good for me.”

By JONATHAN M. KATZ Associated Press Writer
Jan 29, 2008
The Associated Press

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Where American Tax Dollars are Spent?

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Do Americans know where their Tax Dollars are being spent? If 63% cannot find Iraq on the world map, probably safe to assume they cannot accurately answer this question.

How the Pie is Divided;

1. 42.2% = Military Spending

The biggest chunk of your money — 42.2 cents of every income-tax dollar — goes to fund the military. Over half of it, or 28.7 cents, goes to pay for the current war and military, 10 cents goes to interest payments on past and present military debt and 3.5 cents is allocated for Veterans’ benefits.

2. 22.1% = Health

The second largest amount is spent on health care initiatives, including Medicare

3. 10.2% Interest on non-Military Debt

About ten cents of every federal tax dollar is spent on interest for non-military related national debt.

4. 8.7% = Anti-Poverty Programs

These funds go to a variety of programs to help the underprivileged. They include food assistance, supplemental income for those with low incomes and assistance for foster care and adoption programs.

5. 4.4% = Education, Training & Social Services

These funds go towards paying for elementary, secondary and higher education. Other beneficiaries include employment training centers.

6. 3.9% = Government & Law Enforcement

This area covers a variety of programs, including the cost of running the justice system, the cost of running the Social Security program and federal employee retirement and disability.

7. 3.3% = Housing & Community Development

This money is spent on housing assistance and community development programs

8. 2.6% = Environment, Energy & Science

Spending in this area goes to environmental programs, energy exploration and any programs that deal with general science, technology and space.

9. 1.5% = Transportation, Commerce & Agriculture

One-and-a-half cents of every federal income tax dollar is going towards agriculture and transportation spending

10. 1.0% = International Affairs

The smallest amount of your tax dollars goes to foreign affairs, including foreign humanitarian assistance, conduct of foreign affairs and international financial programs.

The median income family in the United States paid $2,628 in federal income taxes in 2007. Here is how that money was spent:

  • Military $1,109
  • Health $581
  • Interest on Non-military Debt $269
  • Anti-Poverty Programs $228
  • Education, Training & Social Services $115
  • Government & Law Enforcement $102
  • Housing & Community Development $88
  • Environment, Energy & Science $69
  • Transportation, Commerce & Agriculture $40
  • International Affairs $27

uncle sam wants out

Read the Full Report from the The National Priorities Project

CNBC Slideshow

Holy Szmolinsky – Monster Bunnies heading for North Korea

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Giant Rabbits Hit the Big Screen

By Michael Scott Moore in Berlin

A German breeder of huge hares has hit the big time. A short film about a plan to send monster bunnies to North Korea for food was part of the Berlin Film Festival. It seems that Communist functionaries ate the rabbits before they could benefit the poor.

A German pensioner who made headlines last year for breeding giant rabbits — and selling a batch to North Korea with the idea of easing hunger — is the subject of a short documentary by an American director in the the 2008 Berlin Film Festival. Director Julius Onah made the five-minute film — a clip can be seen by clicking on the video below — after reading about Karl Szmolinsky on SPIEGEL ONLINE. And in doing so, he learned that the rabbits may have been eaten by North Korean functionaries instead of the starving people for whom they were intended.

Szmolinsky is a 68-year-old German living in Eberswalde, near Berlin, who won a prize for breeding a 10.5-kilogram (23.1 pound) rabbit named Robert in 2006. Robert was the size of a small dog. When North Korean leaders saw photos of him they contacted Szmolinsky through a breeding federation, hoping to purchase a line of “German Giant Grays” to alleviate hunger in their hermetic Communist state.

Szmolinsky grew up in East Germany, and he agreed to help. He sold a dozen to the North Koreans at a cut rate — 80 euros instead of the going rate of 200 or 250 euros — and told SPIEGEL ONLINE in early 2007 that the 12 rabbits could produce 60 babies a year. Each animal, he estimated, would feed about eight people. “They’ll be used to help feed the population,” he said at the time. “I’ve sent them 12 rabbits so far; they’re in a petting zoo for now. I’ll be travelling to North Korea in April to advise them on how to set up a breeding farm. A delegation was here and I’ve already given them a book of tips.”

After reading about Szmolinsky during a visit to Germany in January 2007, Onah assembled a film crew. He visited Szmolinsky in the wake of worldwide publicity about his anti-hunger scheme, on a day when the rabbit breeder was fielding phone calls from complete strangers who objected to his deal with the North Koreans.

“We actually didn’t spend that much time talking about the rabbits,” said Onah. “We spent most of our time talking about conditions in East Germany, both before and after the fall of the Wall.” But concerned strangers had started complaining to Szmolinsky for sending live animals to North Korea, where animal-rights standards aren’t up to snuff.

The resulting short, called “Szmolinsky,” concentrates on the harassing phone calls.

Onah, 25, is a graduate student at New York University’s film school and he made “Szmolinsky” to fulfill a class assignment. The film is evocative but not detailed; Onah spent a total of four hours with Szmolinsky and only later learned what became of his project to feed North Korea.

“In April of ’07 Szmolinsky was supposed to go to North Korea himself and oversee the breeding of the rabbits,” Onah told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “But some time between January and April he found out that the rabbits he sent got eaten (by senior officials). All 12 of them. So he refused to cooperate (more…) with the North Koreans.”

Meanwhile the South Korean government has contacted Szmolinsky. “The South Koreans would like him to send his rabbits there,” said Onah, “and they sent this letter which even apologized for the behavior of their neighbors in the north.”

Szmolinsky himself attended the Berlinale premiere of the film with one of his giant rabbits on February 8. Onah said he might make a longer film about the story, given funding and time — he’s interested in the parallels between a divided Cold-War Germany and a divided Korean peninsula — but right now other projects are crowding his schedule.

Monster German Bunnies Rabbits Bunny

Links;

Remember Harvey Leroy “Lee” Atwater?

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We should all remember Harvey Leroy “Lee” Atwater, the original Machiavellian Prince of American Politics. We should all remember his tactics as well as his later rejection of those same politics.

Before there was a Republican Karl Rove and a Democratic James Carville, there was the original Boogieman, Lee Atwater. In the summer of 2008, a movie is being released with that name and will examine the life and influence of Lee Atwater on US politics.

He was the founding father of the Attack Ads, the Negative Ads, and the general Smear and Slime based political campaign.

At the age of 39, he was at the top of the game, having led Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr both to victory. By the age of 40, he was dead from a brain tumor. He had it all, and just as suddenly lost it all.

This the arrogant Lee Atwater.

And this is the more humble version.

lee atwater sick with tumor in bed

It was not until he was in the death throws that Lee Atwater had a epiphany.

In a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Atwater wrote:

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.

There are lessons here for all of us to learn from…

Links;

Camel Burgers – “Where’s the Camel?”

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ALISON BEVEGE, The Northern Territory News Pty. Ltd. Copyright © January 30th, 2008

ONE Territory business has cooked up a solution to the feral camel problem and it smells a lot like dinner.

Central Australian meat producer Territory Camel is selling camel steaks and sausages throughout the Territory and is now planning to export to up to 26 countries.

Camel meat is said to taste a lot like beef but is very low in cholesterol.

It is also free of pesticide residues and chemicals.

Territory Camel managing director Garry Dann has been a pastoralist for years. Two years ago he restarted an abandoned abattoir 30km northwest of Alice Springs to process free-range beef and camel meat.

But he sees real growth prospects in the dromedaries. Mr Dann said he is seeking to gain tier 1 accreditation for the abattoir with the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, which would enable him to export.

“Mainly to the Middle Eastern countries such as the UAE – they like camel there,” he said.

More than 600,000 feral camels roam the NT, causing environmental degradation and plaguing pastoralists who often call for culls.

But a full-grown male camel is worth $300 at the abattoir.

“It’s a great resource,” Mr Dann said.

“I don’t like seeing them shot and wasted – they’re good meat.”

Boning, packing and management of animals in the paddocks creates work for remote indigenous people.

Mr Dann is already employing remote indigenous people from Central Australia, including the southwest of the NT and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands to bring camels in to process.

“Where in Alice a mob of 60-70 is a big mob, in the APY lands you get mobs of 700 to 1500 or better,” he said.

Mr Dann said if he gets tier 1 accreditation, he will move from processing about 40 camels per week to 200.

Territory Camel sells camel steaks, mince and sausages through consumer outlets in Darwin and also Alice Springs.

Company spokeswoman Sarah Debney said the biggest challengefor the company was creating consumer demand.

“Once a person has tried camel meat the yuck factor is dispelled,” she said.

“Camel meat tastes so similar to beef that even expert cattlemen have been tricked over a camel T-bone.”