Current events involving politics, political office holders, political candidates, world events, local events, crime and other public affairs issues are discussed. Business news items as well as science and technology issues may appear.
From U.S. National Weather Service San Diego California:
Although the details are still a little foggy, it does appear that a relatively wet pattern will arrive for much of next week across Southern California, thanks to a strengthening of the southern jet stream across the Eastern Pacific Ocean. A series of weather systems will arrive next week, with the first chance of rain as early as Sunday night. A second weather system may arrive Tuesday and continue through Wednesday…bringing possible widespread rainfall to the lower elevations, and snowfall to the higher mountains of SoCal. Stay tuned for further details as the forecast becomes more detailed and fine-tuned in the next few days. Bottom line, it looks like a relatively wet start to 2016!
Locally-heavy rainfall is forecast to continue across the Southeast and central Gulf Coast Thursday into Friday, as warm, moist air interacts with a slow-moving cold front. Flash flooding is possible across the region through Friday. Remember, do not attempt to drive across flooded roadways. Turn around, don't drown!
From the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Headquarters:
#OTD: In 1995, U.S. forces begin crossing the Sava River and entering Bosnia-Herzogovina (photo) to enforce the Dayton Peace Accord and end the Bosnian War over a ribbon assault bridge built by U.S. Army engineers.
2015 marks the centennial of the birth of Dr. Verner Suomi, the “Father of Satellite Meteorology”!
Although it might seem odd that we’re mentioning this now, at the close of December, we would be remiss to let the year pass without acknowledging Suomi and the impact he had on satellite weather studies.
Suomi was one of the first to recognize the role that satellites could play in weather forecasting and his legacy lives on with NOAA/NASA’s Suomi-NPP polar-orbiting satellite, which was named in his honor.
USGS Hydrologic Technician Rich Akins, taking a measurement from our reference point at North Fork Spring River near Purcell, MO on 12/28/2015. The USGS gage in the background is partially submerged. This measurement was taken close to when the river peaked. The gage height was measured at 31.47 feet, and the discharge at 32,000 cubic feet per second. That would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just under 3 seconds.
Technicians got to the gage by boat to get a gage height to go along with our measurement. Photo by Larry Buschmann/USGS.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11 Denn ich weiß wohl, was ich für Gedanken über euch habe, spricht der Herr: Gedanken des Friedens und nicht des Leides, daß ich euch gebe das Ende, des ihr wartet. Porque yo sé los pensamientos que tengo acerca de vosotros, dice Jehová, pensamientos de paz, y no de mal, para daros el fin que esperáis.
Today over 97 percent of schools report they are meeting the updated meal standards.
This time of year, it often feels like time is flying by. As we take time to step back and reflect on the past, we often think, “My, my, where did the time go?” or “It feels like just yesterday…” or “How could it be almost 2016 already?” Many of us at USDA are feeling a bit nostalgic too, wondering: “Could it really be half a decade since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) passed!?”
But as we commemorate the anniversary of the passage of HHFKA, we realize how far our country has come over the last five years toward achieving the goal of ensuring every American child has access to the nutrition they need to grow into healthy adults. HHFKA’s historic investment in the health of our nation’s children has enabled USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to expand and improve a number of our programs and services to better help those in need.
One of the biggest changes that came out of HHFKA was the introduction of updated school nutrition standards in school year 2012-2013. Today, over 97 percent of schools report they are meeting the updated standards – which were developed based on expert recommendations from the Institute of Medicine – meaning children nationwide have access to healthy, well-balanced meals. Many schools are integrating fresh, local produce into their menus through farm-to-school initiatives with help from the annual Farm-to-School Grants program established under HHFKA. In addition, USDA Foods revised its requirements based on the latest standards, and now offers more than 200 nutritional foods (such as whole grain pastas and high-protein yogurts) that help support the new meal patterns in schools.
These nutritious meals are especially important to children from low-income households, who may rely on these meals as a consistent source of food. More than 17,500 schools nationwide have implemented HHFKA’s Community Eligibility Provision, offering nutritionally balanced meals at no cost to more than 8 million school children each school day.
HHFKA’s impact also extends beyond schools. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), for example, has been able to implement a number of changes, such as increasing breastfeeding promotion efforts and launching a new recognition program – the Loving Support Awards of Excellence – to recognize and celebrate exemplary local WIC breastfeeding programs. In addition, almost all WIC state agencies have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) program, which will be mandatory nationwide under HHFKA starting October 2020. EBT can help reduce participant stigma, speed up the checkout process, and increase program integrity and accuracy.
HHFKA also expanded the mission of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program nutrition education program (SNAP-Ed). While SNAP-Ed continues to be a program for low-income Americans, the HHFKA provision made it easier for states to administer nutrition education, while still allowing funding to grow. Under HHFKA, SNAP-Ed interventions must be evidence-based and outcome driven with a focus on preventing obesity.
While so much has been accomplished over the past five years, the work is not yet over. USDA will continue to work hard, fighting against the hunger and obesity that threatens the future of our country, until all American children have consistent access to healthy food.
As we commemorate this anniversary and take time to consider where we’re seeing success and where we can continue to do more, we must all remember this: If just one more child can rely on receiving consistent meals at school, learns the lifelong value of healthy eating, no longer worries about scrounging up lunch money, or avoids disease by maintaining a balanced diet, that is a victory worth celebrating.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden with The Women in Agriculture and Public Service delegates from sub-Saharan Africa after the round table discussion held at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, Ghana, on Nov. 15, 2015. USDA photo.
No matter where you’re from, no matter what you look like, no matter your background, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is here for you. It has been an exciting year at USDA, filled with growth and opportunity. This year, I have traveled the country and the world to meet with farmers, ranchers and agriculture leaders who love the land and want to help the next generation succeed.
As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to share the top five things USDA has done this year to build a more diverse future for agriculture:
1. This fall, I met with the next generation of agriculture leaders on college campuses across the country. From the meat lab at Colorado State to environmental policy at Duke, these students, both male and female, are asking important questions and working together to make our industry more diverse and innovative than ever before.
2. This year at the National FFA convention, I announced a new USDA commitment to beginning farmers and ranchers. By visiting www.usda.gov/newfarmers, burgeoning farm entrepreneurs can access advice and guidance on everything a new farm business owner needs to know, from writing a business plan, to obtaining a loan to grow their business, to filing taxes as a new small business owner. New farmers can also use the site’s Discovery Tool to build a personalized set of recommendations of USDA programs and services that may meet their needs. Over the next two years, USDA is also prioritizing $5.6 billion within USDA programs and services to better serve new and beginning farmers and ranchers.
3. We created a network for women in agriculture who are interested in supporting one another as we look to see more women leader at the decision making table. In February at the annual Ag Outlook Forum, I announced the official launch of the Women in Agriculture Mentoring Network, which now has over 1,000 participants. These women come from all walks of life and I have met many of them at roundtables across the country to discuss ways to increase opportunities for women in agriculture. I look forward to watching this network grow and encourage you to join by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also see the impact of women in ag in your state by visiting www.usda.gov/womeninag.
4. Across the globe, women are working together to address global food insecurity and I was lucky enough to visit with some amazing women farmers in Africa, Central and South America this year. In Ghana, I visited a local cacao farm and saw firsthand the security and opportunity that successful cocoa production can bring to rural communities. In these communities, the contributions of women to global food securitycould not be more apparent which is why USDA uses the full force of all of its resources to improve food security around the world.
5. USDA stands ready to help our nation’s veterans find a fulfilling career in agriculture. Every year, approximately 200,000 Service members complete the Transition Assistance Program as they prepare for civilian life. This career training and counseling program now includes information on a wide variety of USDA loans, grants, training and technical assistance available for veterans who are passionate about a career in agriculture. For more information, you can reach out to USDA’s Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison, Lanon Baccam, or watch the Google Hangout that I hosted with some incredible veterans and veteran-training organizations in agriculture.
This has been a great year for American agriculture and I look forward to continuing these efforts in 2016.
Our #damoftheweek is Warm Springs Dam, on the Middle Fork of the Malheur River, about 13 miles southwest of Juntura, Oregon. The dam, constructed by the Warmsprings Irrigation District, is a 106-foot-high thin arch structure, and contains 19,500 cubic yards of concrete. Visit http://on.doi.gov/1bqoR91 for more information.
NW PACIFIC OCEAN – Satellite Data Shows System 99W Slowly Coming Together
Recent animated multispectral satellite imagery of the tropical low pressure area designated "System 99W" showed a slowly-consolidating low-level circulation center with persistent deep convection.
System 99W is located near 1.1 degree north latitude and 175.3 west longitude, approximately 1115 nautical miles east-southeast of Kwajalein Atoll. A satellite image showed fragmented bands of thunderstorms over the southern quadrant of the storm, wrapping into the low-level center. This infrared image from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite was taken on Dec. 30 at 13:16 UTC (8:16 a.m. EST) Yellow and green areas show the coldest cloud top temperatures and strong thunderstorms around the consolidating center of circulation. (the vertical black lines depict no data). The Joint Typhoon Warning Center noted an Upper-Level analysis showed a marginally-favorable environment, with moderate southeasterly vertical wind shear and strong poleward diffluence aloft. Although global computer models differ about development, they do generally agree that the low pressure area will track across the International Dateline in about 3 days. Maximum sustained surface winds are estimated at 20 to 25 knots. Minimum sea level Pressure is estimated to be near 1003 millibars. The potential for the development of a significant tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours is upgraded to medium. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA/NRL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City police are investigating a crime where someone shot and killed two cows on land near North Robinhood Lane and Cookingham Drive in the Northland.
Wayne Steinmeyer told FOX 4 he has been raising livestock all his life, and what he saw on his property Tuesday morning outraged the veteran cattle rancher. He says sometime between 5 p.m. on Monday and 8 a.m. on Tuesday, someone hopped a fence around his pasture, then shot and killed two of his cattle.
Today is the 30th anniversary of the loss of NOAA-8, one of NOAA's polar-orbiting environmental satellites.
NOAA-8 was launched on March 28, 1983, and provided an economical and stable sun-synchronous platform for its instruments, which were designed to measure the earth's atmosphere, surface, cloud cover and near-space environment.
Although expected to remain operational for at least two years, NOAA-8 experienced a minor malfunction in June 1984 and was then lost on December 29, 1985, following a thermal runaway that destroyed a battery.
The program originally started in 1926 at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, and was sponsored by the National Live Stock and Meat Board. Contests have been held every year since 1926, with the exception of the war years.
Today, the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) – on behalf of U.S. livestock and meat industry – sponsors the program with six contests: National Western, Southwestern, American Royal, Eastern National, Cargill High Plains and International. In addition, several regional contests are held under local sponsorship with assistance from AMSA. Since 2015 our very own AMS International Marketing Specialist, Bucky Gwartney, has served as the AMSA President.
At the contests, AMS provides official USDA Standards of Grades data for the carcass grading and specification classes. This includes applying the official standards for quality and yield grades on 15 carcasses and defect classifications on 10 specification cuts. The USDA grade shields are highly regarded as symbols of high-quality American meat products, and through this program students learn first-hand how to accurately assign a grade to a product.
Quality grades are widely used as a language within the meat industry. Meat is evaluated by highly-skilled USDA meat graders using a subjective characteristic assessment process and electronic instruments to measure meat characteristics. These characteristics follow the official grade standards developed, maintained and interpreted by AMS.
Our outreach and participation on behalf of AMS allows us to visit with future industry leaders, and answer any questions they have about a career with USDA. Over the years, we have been able to draw from a pool of graduates that have a better understanding about the industry, making the training and placement of new hires very easy. We are proud to have employees within the AMS Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program with such insight into the industry, and by participating in the program during college became highly qualified and connected professionals. In fact, I participated in the program while in college, as did several other leaders here at AMS.
It is a very rewarding experience for all involved. AMS can share our collective technical experiences, academic training and unique background with the students, and the students gain valuable insight into the industry.
The Intercollegiate Meat Coaches Association of the American Meat Science Association works diligently to assure the contests reflect current industry trends and consumer demands, thereby better preparing participants for livestock and meat industry careers. AMS is proud to play a part in such a rewarding experience.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in agricultural sciences that turn research into action by taking groundbreaking discoveries from laboratories to farms, communities, and classrooms. Scientific advances that result from NIFA-funded research – more than $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2015 – enhance the competitiveness of American agriculture, ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply, improve the nutrition and health of communities, sustain the environment and natural resources, and bolster the economy. The following blogs are examples of the thousands of NIFA projects that impact the lives of Americans every day.
Growing corn in Texas can be tough. Drought can stress the plants, and when plants are in a stressed weakened condition, they are susceptible to aspergillus flavus, which produces aflatoxin, a toxic and carcinogenic compound dangerous to animals and humans. Researchers crossed tropical corn genes with the temperate corn, which enabled the team to find genes that benefit yield in both irrigated and dryland conditions. As a result, yield increased 15 bushels an acre and the more stress-resistant plants stand up better against A. flavus.
Dr. Seth Murray, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research corn breeder from College Station, talks about his work during a field day. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Li Zhang)
Growing concerns over energy independence and the environment is causing commercial airlines to look for secure and reliable alternative jet fuels that reduce global emissions. With a $39.6 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Alaska Airlines is planning to use 1,000 gallons of Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance-produced biofuel in a demonstration flight scheduled for 2016.
A $39.6 million grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is helping turn forest byproducts into biofuel. (Courtesy of NARA)
After searching 15 years for a way to combat a devastating disease among salmon and trout, researchers found an answer inside the fish itself. The team cultured a bacteria from the fish’s gut and found that it inhibited the growth of the organism that causes Coldwater Disease, which kills about a third of infected hatchery stock. In addition to preventing economic loss to the aquaculture industry, this discovery shows that using probiotics helps cut back on the use of antibiotics.
Researchers Dr. Kenneth Cain, University of Idaho, and Dr. Douglas Call, Washington State University, have developed a probiotic that fights Coldwater Disease in trout and salmon. They found the probiotic bacteria in the fish’s own gut. (Photo by Shelly Hanks, Washington State University)
Carbohydrates present a problem for many who struggle with health issues brought on by obesity. With this in mind, researchers are introducing changes into durum wheat genes that can increase resistant starch content by more than 750%. Resistant starch is an important component of dietary fiber with many health benefits, including reduced blood glucose and insulin levels, an increased sensation of feeling full after a meal, lower cholesterol, and improved gastrointestinal health.
Brittany Hazard, a University of California-Davis doctoral student working on wheat and resistant starch research, collects samples from a wheat field for analysis at the UC Davis’ Dubcovsky Lab.
Researchers have discovered natural methods to sanitize leafy greens using ingredients commonly found in the kitchen, such as oregano, cinnamon, and vinegar. Benefits of using plant antimicrobials and organic sanitizers are that they are natural, environmentally friendly, and less energy intensive since they are effective at both room and cold temperatures. The wash water containing plant compounds and organic sanitizers can also be recycled and reused without a loss in effectiveness.
Sadhana Ravishankar, associate professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, led a team of researchers at the University of Arizona that discovered natural methods to sanitize leafy vegetables.
It’s been another outstanding year for healthier school meals programs and the millions of American students that benefit from them. Today, more than 97 percent of schools nationwide report they are meeting the updated school meal standards, which are based on pediatricians’ and nutritionists’ recommendations. The new meals provide children more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium. There are numerous examples of how schools are providing a healthier school environment with more nutritious options to students across the country, but below are just a few:
Andrew is a Wisconsin seventh-grader and Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador. In collaboration with USDA, Fuel Up to Play 60 serves as an in-school nutrition and physical activity program to help encourage young people to lead healthier lives.
The Team Nutrition Training Grants are awarded as part of USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative, which provides resources, training, and nutrition education lessons for schools and child care providers. Wisconsin Team Nutrition has used the funding to build their healthy cooking contest for the states’ middle and high school students.
Fresh fruits and vegetables in a high school cafeteria.
Montana Team Nutrition has implemented a popular and successful Recess Before Lunch (RBL) program. Through this initiative, Montana students enjoy active play right before indulging a nutritious school lunch meal allowing them to return to class ready for academic success.
After they’ve finished playing at recess, students sit and eat their lunch with School Chef Jason Moore in Gallatin Gateway, MT.
Locally-sourced fish baked in fresh herbs and oil topped with a fresh cilantro slaw…It sounds like a dish from a five star restaurant, right? This is just one of many recipes registered dietitian and director of nutrition services Jenn Gerard offers students for lunch in her California school district. Learn how Monterey Peninsula Schools embraced the new nutrition standards, using them as a springboard to enhance their impressive school meals programs.
Nutrition Services teams up with high school culinary classes to create recipes and menu concepts.
USDA supports our tireless school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. USDA announced the availability of grants to help schools obtain much needed infrastructure to better serve nutritious meals, support food safety efforts, improve energy efficiency, and expand participation in school nutrition programs.
Flowing Wells employee use the oven unit they bought with NSLP equipment grants funds.