Unstructured Finance

Vilsack rips media over swine flu, I mean, H1N1

Hog markets are depressed. Farmers struggle to put food on the table. Hard times are seeping into the rural economy, hurting owners of grocery and hardware stores.

Blame the media, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, unleashing several lengthy rants about the evils of oversimplification during a 25-minute teleconference with reporters on Thursday.

Vilsack scolded the media for continuing to call the new strain of pandemic H1N1 flu by its more common name: swine flu.

“It is not swine flu,” Vilsack thundered. “Every time that is said, consumers get confused. Schools that are considering purchases for school lunch and school breakfast programs get confused, get worried.”

Vilsack implied that pork consumption is down because people worry they can catch swine flu — whoops, H1N1 — from eating pork. (You can’t.) Instead of stressing safety of pork, or sharing details about how the USDA plans to keep watch for the flu-that-shall-not-be-named in hogs, Vilsack dressed down reporters for harming farmers.

Sugar shortage spawns sweet jokes from late-night comedian

By Christopher Doering 
    
The surge in sugar prices and potential risk of a shortage has provided some sweet fodder for one late-night comedian who can’t help but poke fun at the attention the tasty ingredient is receiving.
 
colbertStephen Colbert, who hosts the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, spent part of his show this week lamenting the sugar crisis. 
 
After showing a montage of television clips about the sugar situation, Colbert proceeded to break a glass cover — similar to one containing a fire extinguisher — and pulled out a bag of sugar, which he dosed all over himself.
 
“Oh my God, there’s a sugar shortage,” said Colbert. “How could this happen. Well, like interstate highways and potable water it’s the government’s fault.”
 
Large U.S. food companies, including Kraft Foods, General Mills Inc and Hershey Co, have been pushing the Obama administration to ease sugar import curbs, citing forecasts for unprecedented sugar shortages that could result in higher retail prices and possible job losses.
 
In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack dated Aug. 5, the companies and other groups warned that “our nation will virtually run out of sugar,” if a USDA forecast is accurate.
 
“Can you imagine an America with no sugar?” said Colbert. “Juice would contain nothing but 10 percent juice and we’d all be eating uncaramelized apples. What are we going to do?”  The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c Sugar Shortage – Marion Nestle www.colbertnation.com Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Protests

For more information on the sugar shortage, click here.

The answer is 99,439. Pass it on.

During his first week on the job, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said no one knows for sure how many people work at the Agriculture Department. Speaking to USDA employees and later to reporters, he used that startling anomaly as an argument to update USDA’s computer equipment.

Like the admonition against saying “never” or “always” during an argument, there could be a corollary: Never say “no one knows” in a bureaucracy.

A USDA employee quickly provided an answer for Reuters: 99,439 fulltime, part-time and temporary federal employees as of Monday based on figures from the payroll agency.

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