USDA Proposes New Inspection System for Meat Processing Plants
Jan30

USDA Proposes New Inspection System for Meat Processing Plants

The USDA is proposing a new rule to lift the caps on line speeds in meat processing plants. This new rule would allow individual plants to determine how quickly their pork will be processed on site. The proposed rules under the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) would give hog slaughter plants the option to voluntarily join the new proposed inspection system. This new system would also put plant employees in charge of determining which animals are deemed unfit for processing. The government employees who are currently in charge of completing this job would be moved to other areas of the plant to focus more on food safety. The proposed rule would increase the number of offline USDA inspection tasks but also continue 100% FSIS carcass-by-carcass inspection. Additionally, with the cap on processing line speeds removed, packers would be responsible for maintaining animal welfare and employee safety regulations. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) supports the expansion of the USDA’s FSIS Inspection Model from the current five pilot locations to full-scale use. While Americans eat about 66.5 pounds of beef each year, there are 120,000,000 pigs marketed in the United States each year, according to Purdue Food Animal Education Network. Currently, pork plants process an average of between 950 and 1,000 hogs per hour. With new line speeds, this process could reach a predicted 1,295 hogs per hour. While this new rule would increase production rates, worker safety experts expressed their opposing opinions, saying it would further increase the already high risk of food contamination and worker injuries seen in meat processing plants. With the current production rates, meatpacking workers already experience a risk of injury 17 times higher than workers in other industries around the world. Common injuries include tendonitis, carpal tunnel, and amputations. Dr. Dan Kovich, a veterinarian with the National Pork Producers Council, explained that worries about increased chain speeds are unsupported, saying “The plants don’t have free will to run as fast as they want. They have to make sure they can still meet the letter of the law when it comes to animal welfare, food safety, and employee safety as they did before.” Others who oppose the proposition argue that under the new rule, there will be a disproportionate amount of power in the hands of packers at the risk of animal welfare and employee safety. But with Rabobank, research and advisory firm, predicting that by the end of this year, meat consumption levels will reach over 200 pounds per capita each year, experts believe these processes need to be reorganized the meet the increasing demands. NPPC...

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Unity: An Accepting Home for LGBTQ Skaters
Jan25

Unity: An Accepting Home for LGBTQ Skaters

Although there are 500 skateparks across the United States, there aren’t many places where members of the LGBTQ community can feel comfortable skating. Luckily, that trend is starting to change. The skateboarding culture has been known to sometimes be a hostile environment for women, members of the LGBTQ community, and anyone who wasn’t immediately accepted by the other skaters. Unity is a queer skateboard collective in California that prides itself on welcoming skaters of all kinds. “Growing up, I skated with your typical skate crew,” said Victor Valdez, a 31-year-old skater. “That’s what skateboarding was, and kind of still is. It’s this super-open, diverse community that’s super-jock-ish. They have these really heteronormative standards, it’s almost like football.” Another skater, Oakland’s Trevor Straub, enjoyed skateboarding at an early age, but spent a decade away from the sport as Straub focused on identity exploration and struggled with the negatives associated with skate culture. “I lost all my friends,” said Straub, who is now 25 and identifies as gender nonconforming. “I didn’t skate for 10 years. I just quit — I didn’t own a skateboard, I didn’t look at skateboarding magazines. I hated it.” Straub found that the typical skate scene to not be welcoming at all — until Unity started bringing together LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming riders in an effort to reclaim the sport. Jeffrey Cheung, a 28-year-old artist from the East Bay, created the skate collective after reflecting on both the troubling current times and his early skating experiences. “I wasn’t out in high school,” Cheung said. “When I was skateboarding, I heard homophobic slurs all the time… It’s not a very safe environment for a queer person to come out.” Unity officially began on January 1, 2017, and now hosts a monthly skate gathering in Oakland that draws close to 50 riders each season. “The next generation of skaters will be queer and better than ever,” added...

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Homeowners Beware: Cooler Temperatures Dangerous for Pool Pipes

Have you experienced the unseasonably cold weather making its way through your town recently? Officials in North Texas are telling homeowners to be cautious of their pipes. However, they aren’t just referring to their home’s pipes during this arctic chill. In the United Staes, nearly 21 million U.S. households owned a spa, pool, or hot tub in the spring of 2014. With that many pool owners, people in the “colder than normal” states should also be aware of what’s happening to their pool pipes. According to NBCDFW, pool owners may not realize the potential issues until it is too late. They may not realize that with the ice, comes the risk of bursting pipes once they start to thaw out. Ben Quenzer, owner of Texas Clear Pools in Allen, spoke to NBCDFW about how he expects a surge in calls as the temperature rises. “We expect people to be calling about broken PVC pipes, broken check valves and regular valves from the ice,” Quenzer said. “The valves, as long as the water is moving through, they’re going to be fine. If water slows down enough or stops the valves will fill with ice and they’ll burst and break.” When trying to protect your pool pipe, start with the more expensive equipment like the filter. The filter should be bubbling and show water moving at an even pace. If you don’t notice either of these things, you might have a problem. According to ABC7, people are also seeing their pools freezing. People in North Carolina, who are used to being able to take a dip in the water, are now able to walk on it. This is something that is very uncommon for them to be able to do during this time of year. However, while it may seem like a fun thing to do for social media purposes, officials are urging those to not walk on the water, as it can be very weak. To ensure that your pool is not being damaged, It’s crucial that you do daily pool checks. Doing so will help you make sure that everything is working...

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New Research Shows Link Between Leafy Greens and a Lower Rate of Memory Decline
Jan22

New Research Shows Link Between Leafy Greens and a Lower Rate of Memory Decline

New research shows that eating more leafy greens may assist in delaying the decline in memory and thinking skills that can occur with aging. Researchers at Rush University Medical School in Chicago found that that eating as little as 1 1/3 cups of lettuce daily can protect the brain from memory decline. The study had 960 participants between the ages of 58 and 99. The researchers tracked the participant’s consumption of 144 different foods for about five years and periodically measured cognitive function. The participants were divided into five groups based on their leafy green consumption levels. Overall, the participants’ scores on thinking and memory tests declined at a rate of 0.08 standardized units each year. After 10 years, those who ate the most leafy greens had a rate of decline 0.05 standardized units slower than those who ate the least leafy greens. Other aspects that may impact memory, like age, activity level, and alcohol consumption, were controlled. However, the consumption of leafy greens showed as the most significant factor in reducing memory decline. While a study done in 2008 showed seniors who had a high level of social integration experienced memory decline at half the rate of other seniors with lower levels of social integration, there is also a variety of foods linked to better brain health as well. Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., and her colleagues developed the MIND diet, which identifies foods that have been shown to potentially decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These foods include beans, berries, nuts, fish, olive oil, whole grains, wine, and leafy greens. “When it comes to slowing cognitive decline, [eating leafy vegetables] appears to be one of the most significant behaviors you can adopt,” said Morris. Unlike other foods, leafy greens contain a combination of nutrients that have been linked to brain health. Vitamin E has been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain and the gathering of amyloid plaque on nerve cells, which both occur in those with Alzheimer’s disease. However, Morris cautions that the results of the study do not conclusively prove that leafy greens are the only factor in slowing brain aging. But of course, there’s no reason to not increase leafy green consumption. Leafy greens are not only a good way to stimulate brain health, but they’re among the most nutrient-dense foods and have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and type 2...

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Could Moving to Kansas Be the Answer to Student Debt Struggles?

Are you drowning in student loan debt? Moving to Kansas might be for you. According to CNBC, The Kansas Department of Commerce is offering different full-time positions that come with some pretty amazing perks. One of those perks being the repayment of student debt. This is all part of a program called Rural Opportunity Zones, or ROZ. According to Kevin Doel, director of communications at the Kansas Department of Commerce, the program has really helped bring new residents to the area. In order to qualify for the program, you have to have an established residency after July 2011 and started living there on or after your county chose to be a part of the program. You also have to have your associate’s, bachelors or post-graduate degree before moving to Kansas. Additionally, you’ll need to find someone to sponsor you. This sponsor will pay half of your debt, while the state will pay the other half. “The ROZ program has also helped over 2,000 Kansans return home and has attracted individuals with a wide range of talents and occupations,” Doel said. “It has been particularly effective in attracting educators and healthcare professionals. The ROZ applicants have stated the incentives were important in their decision to move to a ROZ county.” Along with the millions of students looking for ways to pay their debt off, the Federal Reserve says that consumer debt in the United States continues to rise. It reached nearly $3.4 trillion in May 2015. Those participating in the program are eligible for up to 20% of their outstanding loans, which is equivalent to $3,000 per year or $15,000 over the course of five years. The counties that participate in ROZ offer an income tax waiver for new residents who have only made less than $10,000 in Kansas income within five years of moving to the area. Counties in Kansas aren’t the only ones who have decided to create their own payback program. Additional areas offering loan repayment for new residents include Niagara Falls, New York, Harmony, Minnesota, Curtis, Nebraska, and New Haven,...

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