June 12, 2011

AP Waffles on Calling Source of European E. Coli an ‘Organic’ Farm

On Wednesday evening in Europe (12:31 p.m. Eastern Time), in what it was already describing as “the world’s deadliest known outbreak of E. coli,” the Associated Press reported that “No cause for the outbreak has yet been found,” while farmers on the continent were petitioning the EU for hundreds of million of dollars in compensation.

By midday European time (6:27 a.m. ET) on Friday, June 10, it was known (“Sprouts are cause of E. coli outbreak”) that the contaminated food had come from Germany, when investigators “linked separate clusters of patients who had fallen sick to 26 restaurants and cafeterias that had received produce from the organic farm.”

It is not my intention to get involved in a debate on farming techniques. But it seems obvious that if the outbreak came from an “organic” farming enterprise, follow-up stories should continue to mention that origin. Failures to mention organic farming have occurred often enough at the AP that one begins to wonder if those omissions are deliberate — especially when coupled with the wire service’s complete lack of coverage identifying skepticism, of which there is plenty, about the safety of organic farming practices.

Here’s a rundown of the AP’s E. coli stories since Friday’s discovery which do and do not bring up the outbreak’s organic farm source (dates and times are as when last read by yours truly at about 5 p.m. ET).

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How’s That Workin’ Out, Peggy Joseph?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:26 am

A 2008 campaign lowlight:

Text:

News reporter: Peggy Joseph took her daughter out of school early Wednesday for this. Her emotions ran high following Obama’s speech.

Peggy Joseph: It was the most memorable time of my life. I … I … it was a touching moment. Because I never thought this day would ever happen. I won’t have to worry about puttin’ gas in my car, I won’t have to worry about payin’ my mortgage. You know, if I help them, they’ll help me.

Someone ought to find her and do a follow-up report.

WSJ’s Holman Jenkins: ‘Is Every Chinese Firm a Scam?’

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:19 am

Maybe not, but you can bet that every Chinese firm of consequence is state-controlled, and that the state usually knows which ones are indeed scams.

At the Wall Street Journal on Friday, Holman Jenkins described the problem well, but is too cavalier about the implications:

… The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says more than 150 Chinese firms have recently put their shares in reach of American investors through the backdoor, “without any of the vetting from underwriters and investors that companies undergo when they perform a traditional IPO,” to borrow a line from a speech in April by Commissioner Luis Aguilar.

He went on to suggest that not all these companies are frauds. Alas, that distinction has not weighed heavily with investors in recent weeks as a small circle of research shops with short-selling connections has poked holes in one Chinese success story after another.

Sino-Forest Corp., a Toronto-listed timber company backed by hedge funder John Paulson, plummeted 72% this month on accusations of inflated assets and sales. At China MediaExpress, an advertising play backed by former AIG chief Hank Greenberg, its outside auditing firm resigned in mid-March, saying it could no longer “rely on the representations of management.”

By the SEC’s account, in March and April alone, more than two dozen Chinese firms listed in the U.S. announced auditor resignations or other major accounting travails.

An instigator of this rout is Carson Block, whose outfit Muddy Waters Research is based in Hong Kong. Mr. Block told CNBC this week that Chinese firms aim their frauds exclusively at overseas investors: “For the most part, they keep their noses clean in China. If these guys were pulling the same thing in China, the punishment is a bullet to the head.”

As never fails when accusations of fraud hit the newswires, up has gone a cry, “Where are the regulators?” Huh? When have regulators ever exposed or prevented fraud? Market scrutiny exposes fraud, and thereby prevents fraud by giving business managers a constant stream of object lessons about what behaviors to avoid since scamming investors is usually an unremunerative strategy.

This may not be the most ringing declaration of the system’s virtues, but the system has worked pretty well.

The system has worked pretty well, Mr. Jenkins — when it has involved countries based on free markets, the rule of law, and a low tolerance for corruption. China has none of those. Thus, the system doesn’t work very well, and I think we’re going to ultimately learn that “scamming investors” is a remunerative strategy orchestrated or at least sanctioned by the Peoples Army.

Scamming naive Western investors would appear to be a way of collecting a premium on certain very large debt obligations.

Positivity: Sainthood cause opened for priest who brought Opus Dei to US

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Braintree, Massachusetts:

Jun 10, 2011 / 02:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On June 2, the Archdiocese of Boston opened the canonization cause of Father Joseph Muzquiz, a priest who helped establish Opus Dei in the United States.

“The spirit he lived was precisely the spirit of Opus Dei,” said John Coverdale, who wrote a biography of Muzquiz entitled “Putting Down Roots: Fr. Joseph Muzquiz and the Growth of Opus Dei,” and is himself a member of Opus Dei. “That message which comes across very strongly in his life is one that’s very important for our society.”

Opus Dei is a Catholic organization founded by St. Josemaria Escriva, a Spanish priest whom Blessed John Paul II referred to as a “saint of ordinary life.”

The organization promotes spiritual growth and discipleship among Catholic laypersons, teaching them to use work and ordinary activities as a means of encountering God.

Fr. Muzquiz met St. Josemaria in 1934, at the insistence of a friend, when he was a 22 year-old engineering student in Spain.

“There was talk about this priest that was particularly dynamic and a great preacher and doing interesting things,” Coverdale recalled. “(Fr. Muzquiz) mostly went out of courtesy and curiosity.”

Josemaria Escriva, the future saint who had established Opus Dei in 1928, made a strong impression on the engineering student. Very early into their meeting, he told Fr. Muzquiz: “There is no greater love than the love of God.”

Fr. Muzquiz began attending St. Josemaria’s formation classes while continuing his engineering studies. A top student, he graduated in 1936 and began work as a railroad engineer.

Even as he was working, he “sought to sanctify his work … and carried out an extensive apostolate among his peers,” said Rev. David Cavanagh, the postulator of Fr. Muzquiz’s cause, in the June 2 tribunal’s opening remarks.

The Spanish Civil War broke out six months after his graduation, and Fr. Muzquiz spent the next three years in the army as an engineering officer.

His conviction to dedicate his life to God and the Church grew during these years, and he joined Opus Dei shortly after his demobilization.

Fr. Muzquiz became the one of the first men to be ordained a priest of Opus Dei in 1944.

Fr. Cavanagh said it was his “human and supernatural maturity, and the sincerity and generosity of his response to God’s call” that led to St. Josemaria “relying heavily on him.”

In 1949, the Opus Dei founder commissioned Fr. Muzquiz to bring Opus Dei to the United States. When he and two other members arrived, they had no money, knew no one, and could hardly speak any English.

“It was quite an uphill battle,” Coverdale said.

The message of the universal call to holiness that he came to spread was also unfamiliar to the United States.

Despite the difficulties he faced, Fr. Muzquiz had “complete confidence that Opus Dei was a work of God and that therefore it would succeed,” said Coverdale.

Fr. Muzquiz worked to jump-start the U.S. branch of the organization that now boasts nearly 3,000 members across the nation. Within 10 years, he had established Opus Dei centers in St. Louis, Milwaukee, Boston and Washington.

He also laid the foundations for the organization in Japan and Canada.

Opus Dei has become a well-established part of the global Church since Fr. Muzquiz’s death in 1983.

Its focus remains the same, giving lay Catholics spiritual and practical support in the quest to become saints. Members strive to live out a prayer-filled plan of life that includes daily Mass, recitation of the Rosary, times of prayer and meditation, and regular confession. …

Go here for the rest of the story.