Sunday, November 23, 2014

World’s Oldest Spice Bears Vietnam Modern Riches: Southeast Asia - Bloomberg

World’s Oldest Spice Bears Vietnam Modern Riches: Southeast Asia - Bloomberg: "At a time when commodity producers are enduring a slump in prices for everything from crude oil to iron ore to soybeans, Vietnam’s pepper farmers are prospering.

Black pepper trades at about $9 a kilogram (2.2 pounds), from $2 a decade ago, while white pepper costs as much as $13, a threefold gain, according to the International Pepper Community, a producer group in Jakarta. Consumption has exceeded supply for about eight years, boosted by demand for seasoning as Asia eats more meat, said Greg Estep, the global head of spices and vegetable ingredients at Singapore-based Olam International Ltd.

The surge in the $2.5 billion pepper export market contrasts with a fourth consecutive year of declining commodity prices as supply gluts emerge. Vietnam’s crop expanded 15-fold over two decades, displacing India as the biggest supplier, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization says."

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Will A Gluten-Free Diet Really Make You Healthier? - Consumer Reports

Will A Gluten-Free Diet Really Make You Healthier? - Consumer Reports: "Just as fat was vilified in the 1990s and carbs have been scorned more recently, gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—has become the latest dietary villain, blamed for everything from forgetfulness to joint pain to weight gain. "Gluten free" is a claim you see on everything from potato chips to bread to hummus—and even on cosmetics and laundry detergent.  Some people must avoid the protein because they have celiac disease—an autoimmune condition in which gluten causes potentially life-threatening intestinal damage—or gluten sensitivity. But less than 7 percent of Americans have those conditions.

According to a recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 63 percent thought that following a gluten-free diet would improve physical or mental health. About a third said they buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten. Among the top benefits they cited were better digestion and gastrointestinal function, healthy weight loss, increased energy, lower cholesterol, and a stronger immune system.

Yet there’s very limited research to substantiate any of those beliefs, notes Alessio Fasano, M.D., director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Unless you have celiac disease or a true gluten sensitivity, there’s no clear medical reason to eliminate it, Fasano says. In fact, you might be doing your health a disservice. “When you cut out gluten completely, you can cut out foods that have valuable nutrients,” he says, “and you may end up adding more calories and fat into your diet.” Before you decide to ride the wave of this dietary trend, consider why it might not be a good idea."

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Top 400 U.S. Households Paid 18% Average Tax Rate in 2010 - Bloomberg

Top 400 U.S. Households Paid 18% Average Tax Rate in 2010 - Bloomberg: "The top 400 taxpayers in the U.S. paid an average tax rate of 18 percent in 2010, the lowest since 2007, according to Internal Revenue Service data released today.

The wealthiest taxpayers earn a majority of their money from capital gains, which are taxed at preferential rates, letting them pay effective rates far below the 35 percent marginal income tax rate that year.

People who earn all of their income from wages often pay a higher tax rate than the very wealthiest Americans, said Leonard Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center in Washington. The comparable rate for all taxpayers in 2010 was 11.8 percent, and that includes more than 40 percent of households that paid no income taxes that year."

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Elephants are being wiped out, but not enough people seem to care | Bibi van der Zee | Comment is free | The Guardian

Elephants are being wiped out, but not enough people seem to care | Bibi van der Zee | Comment is free | The Guardian: "I asked a senior environmental journalist the other week what he thought was the single most under-reported environmental issue. He replied, unhesitatingly, wildlife poaching. “It’s as if the wildlife is just being hoovered out of Africa,” he said. “In the 1960s people campaigned around whales and wildlife. The Daily Mail actually put rhino poaching on their front page. But now there just doesn’t seem to be the same level of interest.” Dr Paula Kahumbu, a wildlife campaigner based in Kenya, echoes his sentiment, but adds that the UK public is still more active than most areas of the world. “Not a single African leader has spoken out on this,” says Kahumbu. “The silence is deafening.”

The scale of the “hoovering” is hard to comprehend. Take elephants, for example. In Africa, where some but not all of the poaching is concentrated, elephants are being slaughtered at a rate of 20,000-25,000 a year, from a population of just 420,000-650,000. The forest elephant population has dropped by 62% since 2002. There is a word for the killing of elephants (elephanticide) and a word for destruction of the natural world (ecocide) but oddly enough – given our magnificent form in this area – there doesn’t seem to be a word for killing off a whole species. We probably need one."

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