Some Americans Lack Food, but USDA Won’t Call Them Hungry
By Elizabeth Williamson
November 16, 2006

The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience “very low food security.”

Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans’ access to food, and it has consistently used the word “hunger” to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.


Mark Nord, the lead author of the report, said “hungry” is “not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey.” Nord, a USDA sociologist, said, “We don’t have a measure of that condition.”

The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans — 35 million people — could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times. Beginning this year, the USDA has determined “very low food security” to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group.

The United States has set a goal of reducing the proportion of food-insecure households to 6 percent or less by 2010, or half the 1995 level, but it is proving difficult. The number of hungriest Americans has risen over the past five years. Last year, the total share of food-insecure households stood at 11 percent.

Less vexing has been the effort to fix the way hunger is described. Three years ago, the USDA asked the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies “to ensure that the measurement methods USDA uses to assess households’ access — or lack of access — to adequate food and the language used to describe those conditions are conceptually and operationally sound.”

Among several recommendations, the panel suggested that the USDA scrap the word hunger, which “should refer to a potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation.”

To measure hunger, the USDA determined, the government would have to ask individual people whether “lack of eating led to these more severe conditions,” as opposed to asking who can afford to keep food in the house, Nord said.

It is not likely that USDA economists will tackle measuring individual hunger. “Hunger is clearly an important issue,” Nord said. “But lacking a widespread consensus on what the word ‘hunger’ should refer to, it’s difficult for research to shed meaningful light on it.”

Anti-hunger advocates say the new words sugarcoat a national shame. “The proposal to remove the word ‘hunger’ from our official reports is a huge disservice to the millions of Americans who struggle daily to feed themselves and their families,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, an anti-hunger advocacy group. “We . . . cannot hide the reality of hunger among our citizens.”

In assembling its report, the USDA divides Americans into groups with “food security” and those with “food insecurity,” who cannot always afford to keep food on the table. Under the old lexicon, that group — 11 percent of American households last year — was categorized into “food insecurity without hunger,” meaning people who ate, though sometimes not well, and “food insecurity with hunger,” for those who sometimes had no food.

That last group now forms the category “very low food security,” described as experiencing “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” Slightly better-off people who aren’t always sure where their next meal is coming from are labeled “low food security.”

That 35 million people in this wealthy nation feel insecure about their next meal can be hard to believe, even in the highest circles. In 1999, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, then running for president, said he thought the annual USDA report — which consistently finds his home state one of the hungriest in the nation — was fabricated.

“I’m sure there are some people in my state who are hungry,” Bush said. “I don’t believe 5 percent are hungry.”

Bush said he believed that the statistics were aimed at his candidacy. “Yeah, I’m surprised a report floats out of Washington when I’m running a presidential campaign,” he said.

The agency usually releases the report in the fall, for reasons that “have nothing to do with politics,” Nord said.

This year, when the report failed to appear in October as it usually does, Democrats accused the Bush administration of delaying its release until after the midterm elections. Nord denied the contention, saying, “This is a schedule that was set several months ago.”

U.S. sees reinvigorated al Qaeda in South Asia
By David Morgan
Nov 15, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Al Qaeda is reinvigorating its operations from havens on the Afghan-Pakistani border and poses a growing challenge to U.S. interests in both
Iraq and Afghanistan, American intelligence officials said on Wednesday.

Five years after the September 11 attacks and the fall of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the network led by Osama bin Laden has replaced leaders killed or captured by the United States and its allies with new seasoned militants.

“It has shown resilience,” CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The loss of a series of Al Qaeda leaders since 9/11 has been substantial. But it’s also been mitigated by what is, frankly, a pretty deep bench of low-ranking personnel capable of stepping up to assume leadership positions,” Hayden said.

“These new leaders average over 40 years of age and two decades of involvement in global jihadism.”

Hayden was testifying at a Senate hearing on Iraq and Afghanistan along with Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

Sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq, and increasing attacks by al Qaeda-backed Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, worry lawmakers about the direction of U.S. policy in the Middle East and South Asia.

Also of growing concern is al Qaeda’s seeming ability to inspire home-grown cells in Western countries including Britain, where authorities thwarted an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound trans-Atlantic airliners in August.


Hayden said bin Laden and his second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri, believed holed up on the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, have been able to maintain al Qaeda’s cohesion from a viable safe haven.

“That safe haven gives them the physical and even psychological space they need to meet, train, plan, prepare new attacks,” said Hayden, a four-star Air Force general.

“Without a fundamental comprehensive change in the permissiveness of the border region, al Qaeda will remain a dangerous threat to security in Afghanistan and to U.S. interests around the globe,” Maples told lawmakers.

Despite the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader in Iraq, the two intelligence officials said the group remained a leading actor in that country’s sectarian violence, which was likely only to increase.

Hayden blamed al Qaeda for spreading “almost satanic terror” among Shi’ite groups whose militias have greatly escalated the violence in Iraq.

A purported audio recording by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the current al Qaeda leader in Iraq, last week taunted the Bush administration and threatened to blow up the White House.

Hayden claimed success at dismantling the hierarchy that orchestrated the September 11 attacks, but said Washington only partly understands links between regional militant groups and al Qaeda and is just beginning to dissect al Qaeda’s effect on so-called home-grown cells inspired by its rhetoric.

“That’s ultimately the war winner: how do you understand the ‘inspired by’ al Qaeda,” he said. “You don’t see the movement of people or money or supplies. You see the movement of ideas.”

the united states is becoming a “third world country” and all the republicans can do is gripe about a supposed threat from osama bin laden, who they, themselves, cancelled the hunt for back in july… it’s well past time for this country to grow up and stop acting a spoiled brat… 8/

Dalai Lama wants Saddam spared
Nov 12, 2006

TOKYO (AFP) – Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has appealed for Saddam Hussein’s life to be spared, saying the deposed Iraqi president was not beyond redemption.

“The death penalty is said to fulfill a preventive function, yet it is clearly a form of revenge,” the Nobel peace laureate told reporters as he ended a two-week visit to Japan.

“However horrible an act a person may have committed, everyone has the potential to improve and correct himself,” he said.

“I hope that in the case of Saddam Hussein, as with all others, that human life will be respected and spared.”

An Iraqi court sentenced Saddam, ousted in a US-led invasion in 2003, to hang on November 5 for the deaths of 148 Shiites in an Iraqi village in 1982, after an attempt to assassinate him.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said he expected Saddam to be hanged before the end of the year.

The Dalai Lama has been critical of the US-led invasion of Iraq despite his relationship with US President George W. Bush, who has met with him in defiance of China.

China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950, accuses the Buddhist monk of being a “splittist” and opposes his frequent travels overseas.

The Dalai Lama has said he was seeking greater autonomy for the Himalayan region within China and opposed all forms of violence. He fled into exile in India in 1959.

3 thoughts on “732”

  1. Fixing problems at home isn’t what the Washington critters want to do.

    And now the Dalai Lama could be considered an enemy combatant. Wouldn’t that be the PR flub of the year?

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