Browsing articles from "February, 2014"

IGP Aryal to visit in India

Feb 28, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from Nepal  //  Comments Off on IGP Aryal to visit in India



KATHMANDU, FEB 28 –
Inspector General of Police Uperendra Kanta Aryal is embarking on a six-day official visit to India from Sunday.

Nepal Police Spokesperson SSP Ganesh KC said IGP Aryal will meet senior India n police officials, Delhi Police Commissioner Bhim Sen Bassi and Home Secretary Anil Goswami, among others, during his stay there. SSP KC added the chief of Nepal Police is set to discuss the matters related to curbing of cross-border crimes, terrorism and bilateral security cooperation with the India n police officials.

 DIG Surendra Bahadur Shah, DIG Ganesh Bahadur Rai and SSP Devendra Subedai will  accompany Aryal in the trip.

This is the first visit of high level official of Nepal Police to India in 20 years. Former IGP Moti Lal Bohara had made an offical visit to India in 1994.

Posted on: 2014-02-28 09:59


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CIAA gives go-ahead to TSC

Feb 28, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from Nepal  //  Comments Off on CIAA gives go-ahead to TSC



KATHMANDU, MAR 01 –
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on Friday directed the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) to publish results of the examination held earlier to select teachers without further delay.

The anti-graft body, however, said it is up to the TSC whether to publish the result right now or only after re-marking the answer sheets.

“We found some minor human errors in marking answer sheets. The TSC itself will decide how to move ahead,” CIAA Spokesperson Shreedhar Sapkota said.

The spokesperson said such directive was issued with the view that the process of hiring teachers should not be halted for a long time.

When the CIAA officials checked the answer sheets randomly, some examinees who were given low marks were found to be scoring higher. “We have no adequate human resources to re-check thousands of answer sheets so the Commission can decide on it,” Sapkota said.

The fate of thousands of teachers across the country was in quandary due to the delay in the publication of the TSC exam results.

The result process was brought to a halt after the CIAA issued a directive to put the results on hold.

The CIAA issued such directives in December in response to complaints of irregularities in the announcement of the written test results conducted in June last year after a gap of nearly 17 years.

A total of 413,000 examinees had appeared in the test. Of which, the results of the written examinations of lower secondary and secondary level categories have been published. Around 11,000 candidates have already passed the written tests for the secondary level.

However, the interview of the secondary level’s teachers was halted following the CIAA directive.

Posted on: 2014-03-01 01:59


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Oscar Host Ellen DeGeneres Is Ready To Dance

Feb 28, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Oscar Host Ellen DeGeneres Is Ready To Dance

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seven years after her Oscar debut, Ellen DeGeneres is back.

The 56-year-old TV personality talked with The Associated Press about her plans and preparations for hosting her second Academy Awards this Sunday.

___

AP: What did it take for you to say yes again?

DeGeneres: “It took my agent saying, ‘Yes, you should do it.’ And I said, ‘OK.’ Look, it’s the greatest gig in the world. And it’s also really, really hard. So, I wasn’t going to do it, because I’ve done it before. And I thought, ‘I don’t need to do that again.’ And then I realized I’m too comfortable and too complacent and I should scare myself and take a chance. So here I am, scaring myself and taking a chance.”

AP: Describe the fear element of the job.

DeGeneres: “It’s live around the world, to a billion people watching, and every major person who is in the room that has done every major thing. I mean, I know a lot of them. So, it helps a little bit that I’m friendly with everybody. But it’s still scary. It’s the energy in the room. There’s a lot of really anxious energy and, so, you kind of pick that up. You can feel all that when you walk out. So I’m trying to remain calm.”

AP: How will you be able to resist dancing along with the nominated songs, especially Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”?

DeGeneres: “I know. I will be dancing like crazy, whether he likes it or not. I’m just looking forward to the hat he wears. And I hope that the person (sitting) behind him isn’t mad, because he wears a large hat, that Pharrell.”

AP: What’s your ultimate goal for Oscar night?

DeGeneres: “I hope that everyone had fun. I hope that it didn’t seem like it’s as long as it’s going to be. This year it’s six hours. Did you know that? Six hours… Here’s what I hope: I hope when I say, ‘Goodnight,’ I hope people go: ‘One more hour! One more hour!’ And they start chanting and make me stay. That’s what I hope.”

’90s Documents Show Clintons’ Health Care Concerns

Feb 28, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on ’90s Documents Show Clintons’ Health Care Concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bill Clinton’s aides revealed concern early in his presidency about the health care overhaul effort led by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and later about what they saw as a need to soften her image, according to documents released Friday. Mrs. Clinton now is a potential 2016 presidential contender

The National Archives released about 4,000 pages of previously confidential documents involving the former president’s administration, providing a glimpse into the ultimately unsuccessful struggles of his health care task force, led by the first lady, and other Clinton priorities such as the U.S. economy and a major trade agreement.

Hillary Clinton’s potential White House campaign has increased interest in Clinton Presidential Library documents from her husband’s administration during the 1990s and her own decades in public service. A former secretary of state and New York senator, Mrs. Clinton is the leading Democratic contender to succeed President Barack Obama, though she has not said whether she will run.

Friday’s documents included memos related to the former president’s ill-fated health care reform proposal in 1993 and 1994, a plan that failed to win support in Congress and turned into a rallying cry for Republicans in the 1994 midterm elections. As first lady, Hillary Clinton chaired her husband’s health care task force, largely meeting in secret to develop a plan to provide universal health insurance coverage.

White House aides expressed initial optimism about her ability to help craft and enact a major overhaul of U.S. health care.

“The first lady’s months of meetings with the Congress has produced a significant amount of trust and confidence by the members in her ability to help produce a viable health reform legislative product with the president,” said an undated and unsigned document, which was cataloged with others from April 1993. The document urged quick action, warning that enthusiasm for health reform “will fade over time.”

But the documents also showed the growing concerns among Clinton’s fellow Democrats in Congress. Lawmakers, it said, “going to their home districts for the August break are petrified about having difficult health care reform issues/questions thrown at them.”

Administration officials also wanted to distance Hillary Clinton from a staff meeting on the touchy subject of making health care cost projections appear reasonable. Top aides wrote an April 1993 memo saying pessimistic cost-savings projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office were “petrifying an already scared Congress.”

“CBO has the very real potential to sink an already leaking health reform ship,” said the memo, signed by Clinton aides Chris Jennings and Steve Ricchetti, the latter now a top aide to Vice President Joe Biden. A White House and congressional meeting meant to “align budget assumptions with CBO” would be “all staff,” the memo said, so “we do not believe it appropriate that Mrs. Clinton attend.”

The documents also include detailed media strategy memos written as aides tried to soften Mrs. Clinton’s image.

Her press secretary, Lisa Caputo, encouraged the Clintons to capitalize on their 20th wedding anniversary as “a wonderful opportunity for Hillary” and also suggested she spend more time doing White House events celebrating first ladies of the past.

Placing Clinton in a historical context “may help to round out her image and make what she is doing seem less extreme or different in the eyes of the media,” Caputo wrote in a lengthy August 1995 memo about courting better press coverage as the president looked toward re-election. It noted the first lady had an “aversion to the national Washington media.”

Caputo also proposed the “wild idea” of having Clinton do a guest appearance on a popular sitcom of the day, “Home Improvement.”

As the first lady began her bid for a Senate seat from New York in July 1999, adviser Mandy Grunwald coached her with “style pointers” and tips for handling “annoying questions” from the media without appearing testy. Grunwald said she was sure to be asked about her husband’s Senate impeachment trial earlier that year.

The advice: “Be real” and acknowledge “that of course last year was rough.”

As for Clinton himself, by the end of his presidency he showed frustration with his proposed farewell speech to the nation. He told aides that he didn’t think the drafts included enough of his administration’s accomplishments.

“Doesn’t anybody care about me?” he asked aides during his final days in office.

On the health care effort, by September 1993, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged the obstacles in a Capitol Hill meeting with House and Senate Democratic leaders and committee chairs. “I think that, unfortunately, in the glare of the public political process, we may not have as much time as we need for that kind of thoughtful reflection and research,” the first lady said, citing “this period of challenge.”

The meetings also showed that Mrs. Clinton was doubtful that a health care law with a universal mandate — requiring people to carry health insurance — would be approved. “That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we’ve got — a much harder sell,” she told congressional Democrats in September 1993, predicting it could send “shock waves” through the “currently insured population.”

In 2007, when she ran for president, Clinton made the “individual mandate” a centerpiece of her “American Health Choices Plan,” requiring health coverage while offering federal subsidies to help reduce the cost to purchasers.

The health care overhaul signed into law by Obama in early 2010 carried a mandate that all Americans must obtain health insurance or pay a fine.

In another document, Clinton’s advisers flirted with the same type of overpromising language that Obama later used about allowing people to keep their doctors under the reforms. A Clinton-era memo noted that the policy promised people could “‘pick the health plan and the doctor of your choice.’ This sounds great and I know that it’s just what people want to hear. But can we get away with it?”

The documents offer cameo appearances by several Obama officials during their younger days. Speechwriter Jeff Shesol appeared frustrated in the spring of 1998 when describing Clinton adviser Rahm Emanuel, who later served as Obama’s White House chief of staff and is now Chicago’s mayor. Emanuel, Shesol wrote, “is gonna complicate all our lives.”

Clinton aide Paul Begala, now a top Democratic strategist, was “wrong half time, glib,” Shesol wrote.

In another document, future Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, then a White House lawyer, advised Clinton’s team to be “non-defensive” in dealing with tobacco companies involved in the government’s settlement in May 1998. “Let them know they shd be leery of (expletive) with this. In those words.”

In 2000, National Security Adviser Samuel “Sandy” Berger told his speechwriter to cite the accomplishments of young government-service aides instead of Silicon Valley “whiz kids” like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. “Stick with public service,” Berger scrawled in notes on the margins. “How old is Susan Rice?” he added, referring to the then-assistant secretary at state for African Affairs who is now Obama’s national security adviser.

The new documents offer glimmers of Clinton’s internal national security deliberations. The most detailed material, contained in files from then-national security speechwriter Paul Orzulak, show top Clinton officials wrestling with how to deal with China’s emergence as a world financial power.

Notes from an undated meeting with Berger show the Clinton national security adviser pushing for China’s membership in the World Trade Organization despite concerns about human rights abuses.

A series of emails pertaining to the 9/11 Commission’s research into Clinton-era handling of al-Qaida attacks were all apparently withheld by Archives officials, citing national security and confidential restrictions. The only memo released was a single July 1998 email about whether to send a high-ranking diplomat to Minnesota with a presidential message to greet ailing Jordanian King Hussein. “Sounds like too much crepe hanging,” said a dismissive official.

Other documents released Friday offered a glimpse into the juggling of priorities early in Clinton’s first term and administration concerns after Republicans took control of the House and Senate in the 1994 elections.

A July 1993 memo shared among Clinton’s advisers sought guidance on how the administration should focus its attention on three major priorities: health care reform, the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and an initiative aimed at “reinventing government.”

“The president has repeatedly promised that health care will come after the economic package passes,” the memo from Clinton advisers Emanuel, Bob Boorstin, Mark Gearan and others said. “Surveys indicate that health care remains the second or third priority (behind job creation) for the vast majority of voters, but also that people fear reform is just another promise to be broken.”

“Our core supporters are rapidly losing patience and could block passage by throwing their support to alternative plans,” the memo warned.

___

Associated Press writers Stephen Braun, Henry C. Jackson, Pete Yost, Laurie Kellman and Connie Cass in Washington and Jill Zeman Bleed in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Teases, Reassures Shareholders

Feb 28, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Apple CEO Tim Cook Teases, Reassures Shareholders

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook is still trying to convince shareholders that the iPhone maker remains a step ahead in the race to innovate, even though recent performance of the company’s stock lags behind other technology trendsetters.

In making his case Friday, Cook struck a familiar refrain during Apple’s annual shareholder meeting at the company’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters.

Cook promised that Apple Inc. is working on new gadgets that will expand the company’s product line-up beyond smartphones, tablets, music players and personal computers without divulging any details. He cited the company’s nearly $4.5 billion investment in research and development during the last fiscal year and the completion of 23 acquisitions in the past 16 months as a precursor of the big things to come.

“There is a ton of stuff going on,” Cook said.

On the financial side, Cook told shareholders that Apple’s board will announce whether the company will increase its dividend and spend more money buying back its own stock by the end of April. Money management is a major issue for Apple because the company is sitting on nearly $159 billion in cash, including $124 billion held in overseas accounts to avoid U.S. taxes.

On the labor front, Cook pledged to continue Apple’s fight for the rights of the low-paid workers who build the company’s devices in overseas factories. The workplaces are frequently depicted as oppressive sweatshops.

“I don’t think there is any CEO who talks about human rights more than I do,” he said. “I get a lot of spears for it, but I don’t give a crap.”

Cook, who became Apple’s CEO shortly before the October 2011 death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, also showed a playful side. He tantalized the crowd by telling them he planned to provide a glimpse at Apple’s upcoming products, but it turned out to be a tease. “I’ve got to have some fun,” he said.

The meeting looked like it would be a tense affair until earlier this month when activist investor Carl Icahn abandoned a high-profile campaign aimed at pressuring Apple’s board to increase the company’s $60 billion budget for buying back its stock. The company has already spent more than $40 billion of that amount.

Most shareholders at Friday’s meeting seemed supportive of Cook, although a couple expressed frustration with Apple’s stock price when he took seven questions from the audience.

Investors are worried about the company’s shrinking market share in the smartphone market as its rivals introduce a wider selection of devices offering lower prices and larger screen sizes. Wall Street is also wondering if Apple lost some of its inventiveness with the death of the visionary Jobs.

Apple’s stock dipped $1.43 to close Friday at $526.24. That’s 25 percent below its peak price of $705.07 reached September 2012. Over the same stretch, the stock of Google Inc. — a bitter rival — has surged by 66 percent and the technology-driven Nasdaq composite index has gained 35 percent.

Cook told shareholders he isn’t worried, noting that Apple’s stock has struggled over other stretches in the past 15 years, only to soar after the company released breakthroughs such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. The stock might fare better if Apple revealed more about its future plans, Cook conceded, but he said the company intends to hew to Jobs’ hush-hush philosophy to build consumer anticipation and prevent rivals from getting an early start on copying its ideas.

“We think the element of surprise is important,” Cook said.

Analysts are convinced the next iPhone will feature a larger screen than the four-inch display that was introduced in 2012. Other smartphones boast five-inch and even six-inch screens that appeal to people who play a lot of games or watch a lot of video. Speculation on new product categories that Apple might enter includes a high-tech watch that could monitor the user’s health and a long-rumored television set that would run on the same software as the iPhone.

Although he didn’t discuss a potential TV set Friday, Cook revealed a new statistic indicating the company’s $99 set-top box for streaming Internet video is becoming increasingly popular. He said the box, called Apple TV, generated more than $1 billion in revenue during Apple’s last fiscal year. That figure implies Apple sold more than 10 million of the boxes last year.

Ukraine Official: 8 Russian Cargo Planes In Crimea

Feb 28, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Ukraine Official: 8 Russian Cargo Planes In Crimea

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A spokesman for the Ukrainian border service says eight Russian transport planes have landed in Crimea with unknown cargo.

Serhiy Astakhov tells The Associated Press that the Il-76 planes arrived unexpectedly Friday and were given permission to land, one after the other, at Gvardeiskoye air base, north of the regional capital, Simferopol.

Astakhov says the people in the planes refused to identify themselves and waved off customs officials, saying they didn’t require their services.

Earlier Friday, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador said he had told the U.N. Security Council that Russian military helicopters and transport planes are entering his country and that Russian armed forces seized Crimea’s main airport.

Russia’s Interfax agency cited Serhyi Kunitsyn, a Ukraine presidential envoy to Crimea, telling ATR television that 13 Russian planes carrying 150 Russian troops each landed at Gvardeiskoye air base. That report could not be confirmed.

Prez, veep, pay homage to Pashupatinath temple

Feb 27, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from Nepal  //  Comments Off on Prez, veep, pay homage to Pashupatinath temple



KATHMANDU, FEB 27 –
President Ram Baran Yadav paid homage to Lord Pashupatinath on the occasion of the Mahashivaratri festival on Thursday.   The head of state performed worship according to the rituals and received tika and prasad (offerings).

After paying homage, President Yadav expressed best wishes saying- May Pashupatinath, the centre of faith of the Hindus, do well to all Nepalis.

Flower petals were showered from a helicopter of the Nepalese Army at the main gate to the Pashupatinath Temple in honour of the President.

Similarly, Vice President Parmanand Jha visited the Pashupatinath Temple today and offered worships this afternoon. Former king Gyanendra Shah also went to the Pashupatinath Temple this evening and paid obeisance to Lord Pashupatinath on the occasion of Mahashivaratri , a religious festival dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Prez attends army day function

Also today, President Yadav attended a special programme organised by the Nepali Army this evening at the Army Pavilion, Tundikhel, marking the Mahashivaratri and the Army Day .

On the occasion, the president garlanded the ‘Bir Smarak’ memorial to the brave soldiers, there and received a guard of honour presented by the Nepalese Army. The President is the Supreme Commander of the Nepalese Army.

President Yadav also released ‘Sipahi’, the annual publication brought out by the NA Directorate of Public Relations.

The Supreme Commander and President Dr. Yadav handed out prizes to the winners of the free-fall jump. The Nepalese Army has been observing the Mahashivaratri as the Army Day since 1991.

Attractive fireworks

At the programme, the army presented march-past and free fall jump, the Mahashivaratri feu-de-joie, military skills and band display. This time, the army celebrated its Establishment Day by putting up a spectacular display of fireworks.

The army personnel opened celebratory individual and volley fire, and artillery salvo fire. Under the military skills, the soldiers presented beating the retreat, orchestra, flag and drums, mass PT, songs and music.

Also present on the occasion were the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Acting Chief Justice, the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, the two Deputy Prime Ministers, Chairman of the CPN (UML), the ministers, high-ranking government officials, chiefs of the security bodies, the heads and representatives of the diplomatic missions and distinguished persons.

A large number of people had gathered around Tundikhel to observe the Shivaratri and Army Day feu-de-joie. RSS

Posted on: 2014-02-27 09:19


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High-powered political committee proposed in CA

Feb 27, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from Nepal  //  Comments Off on High-powered political committee proposed in CA



KATHMANDU, FEB 28 –
Major parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA) are preparing to form a powerful cross-party committee to guide the constitution-writing process and hold talks with disgruntled political forces outside of the Assembly.

 

Leaders say the committee will be one of five proposed in the rules of procedures. The tentatively titled Political Dialogue Committee (PDC) will be responsible for resolving contentious constitutional issues including federalism. All parties have in principle agreed to its formation though some fringe parties are lobbying to ensure their inclusion. The committee will be comprised of 81-members and the coordinator of the committee will be chosen through consensus.

 

Earlier, parties had agreed to form a High Level Political Committee (HLPC) to steer the political process. A top Nepali Congress (NC) leader said the PDC will replace the HLPC as any committee outside of the CA would infringe its jurisdiction.

 The committee will have a mandate to provide direction to other committees of the CA such as the Dispute Resolution Committee, Constitution Drafting Committee, Constitutional Record Study Committee and Public opinion Collection and Coordination Committee.

 According to a copy of the rules of procedures obtained by the Post, the PDC will enjoy the rights to make changes on the draft of a new constitution prepared by the Drafting Committee. The PDC will be given a free hand to hold talks outside of the CA in order to engage with the CPN-Maoist and address their issues and concerns. “The Committee would talk to parties inside and outside the CA, addressing agitating groups and other stakeholders to ensure their participation in the constitution-drafting process,” the rules of procedures reads.

The Committee will organise meetings, seminars and other conferences with stakeholders to solicit views on contentious issues. The committee shall have the right to give directions to the government and other committees of the CA to implement past agreements and include them in the new constitution.

 Leadership of the committee will be contested among the parties. In informal meetings the UCPN (Maoist) has demanded leadership of the committee but there has not yet been any agreement.

 Top Maoist leaders, however, said the first and second parties are ready to cede the leadership of the committee to the UCPN (Maoist) to balance power in the constitution-drafting process. They argued that since it did not join government, having Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal at the committees helm would ensure an amicable power-sharing model necessary for drafting a constitution.  

In the first CA, Dahal led a cross-party mechanism called the dispute-resolution subcommittee and proposed the committee have a similar mandate. The new mechanism will not override the jurisdiction of the sovereign CA as decisions made by the committee must be endorsed by the House.  

 

Posted on: 2014-02-28 03:00


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13 Were Exposed To Radiation At New Mexico Plant

Feb 27, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on 13 Were Exposed To Radiation At New Mexico Plant

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials say it is too soon to speculate about the health effects a radiation leak at the nation’s underground nuclear waste dump might have on workers.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Project Wednesday confirmed that 13 workers who were above ground the night of the leak have tested positive for radiation exposure. And they say more workers are being tested.

They say more tests are needed to determine the levels of exposure, and they emphasized that all readings at the site have been at very low levels.

Bu watchdog Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center says the fact the workers were exposed at all raises questions about whether the site’s filtration system worked as well as officials have said.

Chickens Laying Organic Eggs Eat Imported Food, And It’s Pricey

Feb 27, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Chickens Laying Organic Eggs Eat Imported Food, And It’s Pricey

Empty shelves where eggs should be at a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C. The store blames increased demand for organic eggs.i i

hide captionEmpty shelves where eggs should be at a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C. The store blames increased demand for organic eggs.


Dan Charles/NPR

Empty shelves where eggs should be at a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C. The store blames increased demand for organic eggs.

Empty shelves where eggs should be at a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C. The store blames increased demand for organic eggs.

Dan Charles/NPR

The other morning, I found myself staring at something strange and unfamiliar: empty grocery shelves with the word “eggs” above them. The store, a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C., blamed, in another sign, the dearth on “increased demand for organic eggs.”

This scene is unfolding in grocery stores across the country. But Whole Foods’ sign wasn’t telling the whole truth. Demand for organic eggs is indeed increasing, but production is also down.

The reason behind that shortfall highlights an increasingly acute problem in the organic industry.

Most chickens eat feed made from ground-up corn and soybeans, but America’s farmers are not growing enough organic corn and soybeans — especially soybeans — to feed the country’s organic animals.

Edgar Jaime (right) and his brother Jose Luis unload organic vegetables from their farm in Santa Monica, Calif. Now that U.S. and European organic standards are equivalent, more American organic farmers will be able to export to Europe.

“We continue to be frustrated finding enough domestic production to meet domestic demand,” says Lynn Clarkson, a grain trader in Cerra Gordo, Illinois, who buys and sells organic soybeans.

Who’s filling that gap? Increasingly, farmers in China, India and Argentina.

It’s led to the following situation, which on the face of it seems bizarre. The U.S., a soybean superpower, ships conventional soybeans all over the world to feed animals in places like China. Meanwhile, in China, farmers are growing organic soybeans and sending them here.

The U.S. now gets more than half of its organic soybeans from abroad. The biggest suppliers are China and India.

And the stream of imports is growing. Last year, for the first time, the U.S. imported significant amounts of organic corn, too. This also went for animal feed.

These free-range chickens are getting conventional feed. They lay eggs for Sauder's Quality Eggs in Pennsylvania.i i

hide captionThese free-range chickens are getting conventional feed. They lay eggs for Sauder’s Quality Eggs in Pennsylvania.


Dan Charles/NPR

These free-range chickens are getting conventional feed. They lay eggs for Sauder's Quality Eggs in Pennsylvania.

These free-range chickens are getting conventional feed. They lay eggs for Sauder’s Quality Eggs in Pennsylvania.

Dan Charles/NPR

Tight supplies of both commodities, and resulting high feed prices, produced the current egg shortages.

David Bruce, who’s director of eggs, meat, and produce for the company Organic Valley, says organic feed prices spiked last summer to two or three times above conventional rations.

Eggs were plentiful at the time, as they usually are during summer, so some egg producers decided to shut down their organic production for a while. They got rid of some flocks, and switched others over to conventional feed. The eggs from those flocks still could be sold as “free-range” eggs, since all organic chicken houses fit the definition of “free-range.”

Organic egg production fell, while demand grew faster than expected last fall, leading to today’s empty shelves. Organic production is now coming back, Bruce says, but the problem of expensive feed remains.

Lynn Clarkson, the grain dealer, says it’s difficult to persuade most U.S. farmers to make the switch to organic production. The financial incentives are there, he says. Farmers can sell organic soybeans for twice what they’d get for conventional beans. “This should be almost a no-brainer,” Clarkson says. “But it’s not.”

Farmers say there are a series of obstacles to growing organic soybeans. Allen Williams, a farmer near Cerro Gordo, Ill., who does grow organic crops, says part of the resistance come from deeply rooted attitudes about farming. “In this area, a good farmer is one who keeps his farm very well maintained, and that means weed-free,” he says. “Organic definitely isn’t weed-free.”

There also are practical reasons. Growing organically can mean more work, clearing weeds by hand. Also, organic soybeans may be profitable, but farmers can’t grow organic soybeans on a particular field every year; they’d have too many problems with pests. The crops that they grow in other years, such as wheat, may not bring in as much money.

Finally, U.S. farmers are doing well already. They’ve been earning record profits growing conventional crops, and see no compelling reason to change.

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Farmers in China or India, on the other hand, often rely heavily on hand labor for weed control already. Their yields and profits from non-organic crops aren’t as high. So switching to organic is both less difficult, and more rewarding.

Many people in the organic industry are unhappy about the situation. Judging by the reaction of Elissa Rubin, shopping for eggs at the Whole Foods, consumers may not like it either. “Wow. They’re importing organic feed from those countries? That’s amazing,” she said. “Seems to go against the grain of helping sustainability and the environment.”

Some in the organic industry don’t trust the imports. Even though Chinese and Indian farms have to get the same organic certification as American farms, the skeptics think some foreign suppliers may be cheating, selling soybeans that weren’t actually grown according to organic rules.

Clarkson, the grain trader, says he does have to be on his guard, “but last year, when the USDA National Organic Program’s enforcement folks were looking into this, most of the people who where ejected from the organic world for fraud happened to be good old faithful Americans,” he says. “A few happened to be Chinese. No matter where you are, you need to know your chain of supply.”

That supply chain, reaching all the way back to certified organic soybean fields in China or India, has become the key to putting organic eggs and chicken meat on America’s grocery shelves.

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