21 March 2011


QUINOA. According to the NYTimes article, "When NASA scientists were searching decades ago for an ideal food for long-term human space missions, they came across an Andean plant called quinoa. With an exceptional balance of amino acids, quinoa, they declared, is virtually unrivaled in the plant or animal kingdom for its life-sustaining nutrients.

"But while Bolivians have lived off it for centuries, quinoa remained little more than a curiosity outside the Andes for years, found in health food shops and studied by researchers -- until recently.

"Now demand for quinoa (pronounced KEE-no-ah) is soaring in rich countries, as American and European consumers discover the 'lost crop' of the Incas. The surge has helped raise farmers' incomes here in one of the hemisphere's poorest countries. But there has been a notable trade-off: fewer Bolivians can now afford it, raising their embrace of cheaper, processed foods and raising fears of malnutrition in a country that has long struggled with it.

"The shift offers a glimpse into the consequences of rising global food prices and changing eating habits in both prosperous and developing countries. While quinoa prices have almost tripled over the past five years, Bolivia's consumption of the staple fell 34 percent over the same period, according to the country's agricultural ministry."

This is only the most recent iteration of an older story -- residents of richer nations can afford to shop for the most nutritious foods on the planet (though not all do), and at the same time the same richer nations market crap food to developing countries. I recall the boycott against Nestle in the late 1970s and early 80s, over their selling powdered milk to poor people in African nations -- prompting malnutrition and disease when infants were deprived of their mothers' own breast milk. Take a tour of world cities, and you'll be hard put to miss the flagship of junk food, McDonald's. One third of the U.S. population is clinically obese, another third is substantially overweight, and yet we insist on screwing up the rest of the planet because, well, we're America, we must be right. Right?

Given the nutritional value of quinoa, it would be interesting to know more about whether it could be raised successfully in other parts of the world, including the U.S. If so, would it be worthwhile to cultivate it on a massive scale, to improve America's diet, remove the strain on Bolivians, and ease famine conditions in poorer parts of the world?

INTIMATE SMUGGLING. You'll have to read this article to believe it -- "Woman's Remarkable Vagina Hid 54 Bags of Heroin" -- oh, and some cash too. The lethal risk of any of those bags bursting fairly takes one's breath away. Save me from idiots.

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