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Food & agriculture - Sept 26

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Watch Colbert's statement before Congress on Migrant Farmworkers

Stephen Colbert, MSNBC
Watch Stephen Colbert deliver a prepared statement on immigration before the House Judiciary Subcommittee.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(24 September 2010)
Related: Stephen Colbert packs corny punch in testimony before Congress. (Guardian)

Stephen Colbert Takes On Congress, Sarcastically Argues for Farm Workers (ABC News)

 


Colbert Annoys Press Corps . . . Again

Jeff Cohen, CommonDreams
Let's face it: Some in the Washington press corps still resent Stephen Colbert because he so brilliantly lampooned them to their faces at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner over their coziness with the Bush White House.

Yesterday, some elite journalists couldn't contain their anger after Colbert testified before Congress on behalf of immigrant farm workers -- mostly in character (with some funny and not-so-funny jokes) and partly in total seriousness: "I like talking about people who don't have any power and it seems like some of the least powerful people in the United States are the migrant workers who come and do our work and don't have any rights as a result . And yet we still invite them to come here, and at the same time ask them to leave."

Thanks to Colbert, a hearing on migrant workers that would have been ignored by mainstream journalists was jam-packed with mainstream journalists.

But hosting "Hardball" last night, NBC's Chuck Todd was beside himself: "A lot of us frankly are offended." He suggested Congress members should have walked out of the hearing room as Colbert testified.

Ironically, Todd made the Colbert appearance his top story.

And that's a good thing -- because the plight of migrant farm workers is otherwise ignored on "Hardball." I did a quick NEXIS search for variations of "immigrant farm workers" or "migrant farm labor" and found about three mentions in the last decade.

On last night's ABC World News Tonight, correspondent Jonathan Karl did a piece on Colbert on Capitol Hill; Karl rushed up to Colbert, gotcha-style, as soon as he finished testifying and asked if he was "worried about trivializing such a serious issue."

If it's such a "serious issue," why has ABC World News offered such spotty coverage? It's been almost a year since Brian Ross's strong piece on child labor. According to NEXIS, there was a solid report a year before that on farm workers in the heat wave. I found a passing reference in 2009 to an astronaut being the son of migrant farm workers, and a 2008 story on a man's journey "from an illegal migrant farm worker to world-class brain surgeon."

If that's how ABC World News covers "serious issues" of human rights, it's Jonathan Karl who needs to answer about "trivialization."

Not Stephen Colbert.

Jeff Cohen is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. In 2002, he was a producer and pundit at MSNBC (overseen by NBC News). His latest book is Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.
(25 September 2010)
Hooray Stephen Colbert, and boo-hiss journalistic stuffed shirts! -BA


Food Fight: A Kol Nidre Call for Sustainable Consumption

Rabbi Sid Schwarz, The Huffington Post
Here is a concrete, three-point action plan: change your food-buying habits so as to give preference to locally grown produce, institute a regular sacred meal at least once a week, and cut back on your consumption.
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What follows is a sermon that I delivered at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Md. at its 2010 evening Yom Kippur service (Kol Nidre). I am Adat Shalom's founding rabbi.

You may think it odd, maybe even cruel, to give a sermon about food on Yom Kippur -- kind of like talking about ice cream at a Weight Watcher's convention. But the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me.

For many of my generation, "food fight" conjures up the memory of the scene from Animal House when John Belushi calls out, "Food fight!" and all hell breaks loose. But I hope this sermon results in something a bit more noble than recollections of Animal House or the craziest memory you have of summer camp.

Changing associations of well known terms is not easy, but it's possible. Remember when Madonna was the mother of Jesus? Now she is an aging pop singer who dabbles in Kabbalah. And I doubt if anyone in this room would even consider calling an upcoming gathering at your home a "tea party."

I hope to give you a new association with the term "food fight" because in this sermon I want to explore how we bridge the gap between our appetites and what we know to be good for ourselves and our world.

Food and the Planet

What first seemed like a quirky offshoot of the environmental movement has become a full-fledged social movement of its own. It is worth taking stock of what this movement is about and what it might mean for us.

There is a shelf-full of recent books that have raised the consciousness of Americans about food. Books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivores Dilemma and Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, each in its own way, offer some simple wisdom that is convincing. Eating less meat, more plants, fruits and vegetables and focusing on locally grown crops is good for your health and good for the planet.

The data is pretty compelling, and while it leads more and more people to become vegetarians or vegans, there is much you can do short of that. Consider the following:
(23 September 2010)




From Vacant City Lots to Food On the Table

Madeline Ostrander, Yes! magazine
How to grow food where we need it.
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The first time I went to Richmond, Calif., nine years ago, my friend, who ran a punk music recording studio out of a converted warehouse, told us not to park our car on the street. The day before, vandals had walked the block and smashed several car windows.

At least a few things have started to change in Richmond since then: A berry garden sits beside a bike trail in the Iron Triangle, a neighborhood at the center of the city bordered on three sides by old rail lines. Once a month, Latino and African American families–often people who live just a few blocks from each other but rarely had a chance to meet in the past–gather at the garden and have a barbecue. Tomatoes, chard, and corn grow in raised beds across the street. Muslim families from the local mosque just a few blocks away pluck fresh mint from the garden for making traditional Arabic tea. The garden is the work of Urban Tilth, one of the dozen or so groups at the center of Richmond’s urban garden movement. It was built by community members, often young people, and is tended in part by students and teachers from the elementary school next door. And it has become a community gathering space.
(17 September 2010)

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