Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 2nd, 2019

Olives and olive oil

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I’ve used extra-virgin olive oil with a free hand for a long time, but now I’ve cut seriously back. I “sauté” things in vegetable broth most often, and I eat nuts or tahini dressing with my greens. (Tahini is a whole food since it is simply crushed sesame seeds, without the oil being filtered out.)

Michael Greger writes in Part 2 of How Not to Die:

Olives and extra-virgin olive oil are yellow-light foods. Olive consumption should be minimized because they’re soaked in brine—a dozen large olives could take up nearly half your recommended sodium limit for an entire day. Olive oil is sodium-free, but most of its nutrition has been removed. You can think of extra-virgin olive oil a little like fruit juice: It has nutrients, but the calories you get are relatively empty compared to those from the whole fruit. (Olives are, after all, fruits.)

Freshly squeezed olive juice already has less nutrition than the whole fruit, but then olive-oil producers also throw away the olive wastewater, which contains the water-soluble nutrients. As a result, you end up getting just a small fraction of the nutrition of the whole fruit by the time extra-virgin olive oil is bottled. Refined olive oil (nonvirgin) is even worse. I would classify it, along with other vegetable oils, as red-light foods, as they offer such scant nutrition for their heavy caloric loads. One tablespoon of oil can contain more than one hundred calories without filling you up. (Compare that single tablespoon to the one-hundred-calorie serving sizes of other foods here.)

I think of oil as the table sugar of the fat kingdom. Similar to the way manufacturers take healthy foods like beets and throw out all their nutrition to make sugar, they take wholesome corn and scorch-earth it down to corn oil. Like sugar, corn oil calories may be worse than just empty. In chapter 1, I touched on the impairment of artery function that can occur within hours of eating red-light fare like fast food and cheesecake. The same detrimental effect happens after the consumption of olive oil8 and other oils9 (but not after eating green-light sources of fat like nuts).10 Even extra-virgin olive oil may impair your arteries’ ability to relax and dilate normally.11 So, like any yellow-light food, its use should be curtailed.

Cooking without oil is surprisingly easy. To keep foods from sticking, you can sauté in wine, sherry, broth, vinegar, or just plain water. For baking, I’ve successfully used green-light ingredients such as mashed bananas or avocado, soaked prunes, and even canned pumpkin to substitute for oil to provide a similar moistness.

The reduction of yellow-light foods is all about frequency and quantity. If you are going to trek outside the green zone, my advice is simple: Make it count. Don’t waste precious indulgences on crappy food. I don’t want to sound like a food snob, but if you’re going to eat something less than maximally healthy, I say pamper yourself and truly relish it. When I eat olives, there’s no way I’m going to eat those waxy black abominations in a can. I’m going to slice up some purple kalamatas that actually have some flavor. If you’re going to spoil yourself once in a while, I say do it right!

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 3:44 pm

Green smoothies

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Again from How Not to Die:

There’s a phenomenon called flavor-flavor conditioning in which you can change your palate by linking a less pleasant flavor (for instance, sour or bitter) with a more pleasant one (say, sweet). For example, when researchers tried adding sugar to sour grapefruit juice, people liked it better. No surprise. But within a few days, the study subjects began to like even unsweetened grapefruit juice more than they did before the experiment started. In fact, this reconditioning of the palate lasted for at least weeks after the sugar was removed.20

The same happens when researchers dip or spritz broccoli with sugar water or aspartame.21 I know that sounds gross, but they’re not actually making the broccoli taste sweet. The added sweetness merely masks the bitterness by fooling your taste buds.22 This is why the so-called secret ingredient in many collard greens recipes is a spoonful of sugar. Certainly, if there were ever a food to justify the use of a yellow- or red-light condiment to boost consumption, it would be the single healthiest of all foods: greens. I use a balsamic glaze even though it has some added sugar in it. It would be healthier, though, to add green-light sweetness in the form of something like figs or grated apples.

The sweetness trick is why green smoothies can be so delicious (if not a little odd looking). Smoothies can be a great way to introduce greens into children’s diets. The basic triad is a liquid, ripe fruit, and fresh greens. I’d start with a two-to-one ratio of fruits to greens to start with before tipping heavier toward greens on the scale. So, for example, one cup of water, a frozen banana, a cup of frozen berries, and a cup of packed baby spinach would be a classic green smoothie 101.

I like to add fresh mint leaves as well for a boost of flavor (and even more greens). Fresh herbs can be expensive at the store, but mint can grow like a weed in your yard or in a pot on your windowsill. Eating greens for breakfast can be as delicious as mint chocolate oatmeal—cooked oatmeal, chopped mint leaves, cocoa powder, and a healthy sweetener (see here).

When you’re thinking about ways to pair your greens with something you already love to make the greens more palatable, consider mixing them with a green-light source of fat: nuts, seeds, nut or seed butters, or avocados. Many of the nutrients greens are famous for are fat soluble, including beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin K, and zeaxanthin. So pairing your greens with a green-light source of fat may not only make them taste better but will maximize nutrient absorption. This can mean enjoying a creamy tahini-based dressing on your salad, putting walnuts in your pesto, or sprinkling some toasted sesame seeds on your sautéed kale.

The jump in nutrient absorption is no small effect. When researchers tried feeding people a healthy salad of spinach, romaine, carrots, and tomatoes along with a source of fat, there was an impressive spike in carotenoid phytonutrients in their bloodstream over the next eight hours. With a fat-free dressing, carotenoid absorption flatlined down to negligible amounts; it was as if they’d never eaten the salad at all.23 Similarly, adding some avocado to your salsa may triple the amount of fat-soluble nutrients that make it into your bloodstream (in this case, the lycopene in the tomatoes).24 It doesn’t take much. Just three grams of fat in an entire hot meal may be sufficient to boost absorption.25 That’s just a single walnut or a spoonful of avocado or shredded coconut. Snack on a few pistachios after a meal, and you’re all set. The greens and the source of fat just have to end up in your stomach at the same time.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 3:34 pm

Eating better to look better

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From How Not to Die, by Michael Greger MD. This is from Part 2, where he discusses food and diet in detail:

We’ve all heard of the proverbial golden glow that’s often equated with health, vitality, and youth. But instead of using a tanning bed to achieve a more golden hue, you can do it with a bed of greens.

There are certain animals who use diet to increase their sexual attractiveness. Great tits, distinctive olive-and-black songbirds ubiquitous throughout Europe and Asia, tend to prefer carotenoid-rich caterpillars, which make their breast plumage brighter yellow, to become more attractive to potential mates.18 Can a similar phenomenon be found in humans?

Researchers took digital photographs of African, Asian, and Caucasian men and women and asked others to manipulate the skin tone of their faces with a dial until they reached what they perceived to be the healthiest-looking color.19 Sure enough, both men and women preferred the yellow “golden glow” that can be achieved through “dietary carotenoid deposition in the skin.”20 In other words, by eating the yellow and red pigments in fruits and vegetables, like beta-carotene in sweet potatoes and lycopene in tomatoes, men and women may be able to naturally acquire more of a golden and rosy glow. Researchers decided to put it to the test.

Based on a six-week study of college students, the complexion achieved by eating my Daily Dozen recommendation of nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day was found to be significantly healthier and more attractive looking than that achieved by eating three daily servings.21 The healthier you eat, the healthier you look. Indeed, studies find that “individuals with the lowest fruit and vegetable intake may enjoy the most improvement in appearance.”22

What about wrinkles? A study out of Japan used the six-point Daniell scale to rate the extent of crow’s-feet wrinkles around the eyes of more than seven hundred women, with a score of one being the least severe and a score of six being the most severe. The researchers found that “a higher intake of green and yellow vegetables was associated with decreased facial wrinkling.” Women who ate less than one daily serving of green and yellow veggies averaged about a three on the Daniell scale, while women who ate more than two servings a day averaged closer to a two. The researchers celebrated “the potential for these studies to promote a healthy diet…”23

I am certainly not above appealing to vanity, especially for my younger patients who have seemed more interested in which dietary changes will clear their acne than which will clear their future risk of chronic disease. So I’m happy to see articles embrace these types of studies with headlines like “Greens to Be Gorgeous.”24 Still, although looking great on the outside is fine, looking great on the inside is even better.

The numbers in the text identify footnotes that specify the studies whose findings support the statements made.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 2:28 pm

Shredded red cabbage with tahini dressing

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Dr. Greger has much good to say about red cabbage and other greens, and since they have oil-soluble vitamins it’s good to eat them with a little oil. Rather olive oil or avocado oil, he suggests eating some nuts with it, or tahini. I went with tahini.

I took a little jar that that once held some food—capers, I think. It’s a good size and a sort of squat shape. I put into the jar:

1/4 cup tahini, and I used 365 Organiic from Whole Foods
juice of a large lemon
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I used Enzo’s balsamic traditional vinegar)
2-4 tablespoons water (I used 2 tablespoons but it got too thick, so added more)
about 2 teaspoons dried mint
3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Cap the jar and shake vigorously until dressing is smooth.

That worked for me. You can obviously tinker with proportions if you want. It made enough for 4 or 5 salads.

I shredded 1/4 head red cabbage, poured about 1/4 of the dressing over it, and tossed. Quite tasty, very healthful.

UPDATE. I reprised and revised the recipe, changes made above.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 2:19 pm

Farmers Are Losing Everything After “Forever Chemicals” Turned Up In Their Food

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I’ll point out that “forever” chemicals are also dumped into the ocean, which (along with all the other pollutants—mercury, dioxin, PCBs, and so on—are why I stopped eating seafood. Humans on the whole seem to be short-sighted.

“Forever chemicals” linked to cancer are turning up in farm produce across the country, leading farms to lay off workers, incinerate cranberry harvests, kill cows, and dump thousands of gallons of dairy milk.

Such long-lived “fluorinated” compounds have been measured in the drinking water in over 600 locations in 43 states, near factories or military bases that use them in firefighting foams. Best known as PFAS chemicals (short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), they line numerous waterproof consumer goods, from hiking shoes to pizza boxes.

Now their emergence in farm produce has spurred state and federal agencies to ramp up efforts to test for the chemicals in a wider variety of foods, and to fund studies to track how the chemicals enter the food supply.

In June, the FDA announced the results of its first tests for PFAS compounds in supermarket staples, including cooked meat, fruit, and iced chocolate cake. The health agency said it did not see a “food safety risk” in its sampling and did not find PFAS chemicals in most foods. But it did report PFAS in milk and produce that had been farmed near polluted locations. While researchers at the National Institutes of Health and CDC are still studying the health effects of the chemicals, some are known to hinder growth and learning in children, lower chances of pregnancy, and increase the risk of cancer.

Farmers, meanwhile, are already reeling.

“They’ve ruined us,” Fred Stone, a Maine farmer who stopped selling milk after PFAS chemicals turned up in it in 2016, told BuzzFeed News. At his Stoneridge Farm in Arundel, the suspected source is PFAS-laced sludge that Stone had spread on his fields as fertilizer, a practice the state has permitted many farms to do. The milk tested at 690 parts per trillion for PFAS, nearly 10 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for two of the chemicals. More than two years on, Stone and his wife still take care of their remaining 60 cows but can’t sell their milk. Stone estimates he’s spent some $10,000 on tests and is losing over $400 daily. “Our assets are our livestock and our farm, and … we’re nothing now. And this is an operation that goes back 100 years,” Stone said.

MAINE

Well beyond Stoneridge Farm, Maine state officials are grappling with contaminated sludge on farms. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection tested 44 samples from other farms and compost facilities, for example, the Intercept reportedlast month. The agency detected at least one PFAS compound in every sample.

Last week, the state reported the first results of statewide milk testing: Three farms that had also used possibly contaminated sludge did not show detectable levels of PFAS in the milk. Also, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry tested 26 samples from retail milk bottled or sold in Maine, including Horizon Organic, HP Hood, and Cumberland Farms Dairy Pure brands, and announced that all fell below the state’s detection limit.

“We estimate that this sample effort captures 75% of all milk sold in Maine and all Maine-produced fluid pasteurized milk sold in the state,” agency spokesperson Jim Britt wrote to BuzzFeed News in an email.

But Patrick MacRoy of the Maine-based nonprofit Environmental Health Strategy Center told BuzzFeed News that the state’s results were wanting: First, he said the state’s detection limit of 50 parts per trillion was too high. Second, the state needed to test many more farms that used PFAS-laden sludge. And finally, retail milk is typically a mix of milk from many dairies, so problematic milk would be diluted and might escape detection.

“The state needs to actually go out and test all the farms that have a history of sludge use,” MacRoy said. “That’s the only way we’re going to understand where the hot spots are and where the farms are unknowingly producing contaminated milk.”

NEW MEXICO

Across the country, a New Mexico farm with heavily contaminated milk now has the attention of the FDA and the USDA. Without naming the farm, the FDA’s June announcement included tests near a site in Clovis — and the agency reported that it found the chemicals in the milk, as well as in the cheese. . .

Continue reading.

A plant-based diet seems like a good idea, though obviously even that is at risk.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 12:42 pm

Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change

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I don’t think the approach the USDA is taking will solve the problem or even help solve it. It seems more like a total abdication of responsibility and a criminal neglect of their duty. Helena Bottemiller Evich reports in Politico:

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.

All of these studies were peer-reviewed by scientists and cleared through the non-partisan Agricultural Research Service, one of the world’s leading sources of scientific information for farmers and consumers.

None of the studies were focused on the causes of global warming – an often politically charged issue. Rather, the research examined the wide-ranging effects of rising carbon dioxide, increasing temperatures and volatile weather.

The administration, researchers said, appears to be trying to limit the circulation of evidence of climate change and avoid press coverage that may raise questions about the administration’s stance on the issue.

“The intent is to try to suppress a message — in this case, the increasing danger of human-caused climate change,” said Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “Who loses out? The people, who are already suffering the impacts of sea level rise and unprecedented super storms, droughts, wildfires and heat waves.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who has expressed skepticism about climate science in the past and allegedly retaliated against in-house economists whose findings contradicted administration policies, declined to comment. A spokesperson for USDA said there have been no directives within the department that discouraged the dissemination of climate-related science.

“Research continues on these subjects and we promote the research once researchers are ready to announce the findings, after going through the appropriate reviews and clearances,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“USDA has several thousand scientists and over 100,000 employees who work on myriad topics and issues; not every single finding or piece of work solicits a government press release,” the spokesperson added.

However, a POLITICO investigation revealed a persistent pattern in which the Trump administration refused to draw attention to findings that show the potential dangers and consequences of climate change, covering dozens of separate studies. The administration’s moves flout decades of department practice of promoting its research in the spirit of educating farmers and consumers around the world, according to an analysis of USDA communications under previous administrations.

The lack of promotion means research from scores of government scientists receives less public attention. Climate-related studies are still being published without fanfare in scientific journals, but they can be very difficult to find. The USDA doesn’t post all its studies in one place.

Since Trump took office in January 2017, the Agricultural Research Service has issued releases for just two climate-related studies, both of which had findings that were favorable to the politically powerful meat industry. One found that beef production makes a relatively small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and another that removing animal products from the diet for environmental reasons would likely cause widespread nutritional problems. The agency issued a third press release about soy processing that briefly mentioned greenhouse gas emissions, noting that reducing fossil fuel use or emissions was “a personal consideration” for farmers.

By contrast, POLITICO found that in the case of the groundbreaking rice study USDA officials not only withheld their own prepared release, but actively sought to prevent dissemination of the findings by the agency’s research partners.

Researchers at the University of Washington had collaborated with scientists at USDA, as well as others in Japan, China and Australia, for more than two years to study how rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could affect rice — humanity’s most important crop. They found that it not only loses protein and minerals, but is also likely to lose key vitamins as plants adapt to a changing environment.

The study had undergone intensive review, addressing questions from academic peers and within USDA itself. But after having prepared an announcement of the findings, the department abruptly decided not to publicize the study and urged the University of Washington to hold back its own release on the findings, which two of their researchers had co-authored.

In an email to staffers dated May 7, 2018, an incredulous Jeff Hodson, a UW communications director, advised his colleagues that the USDA communications office was “adamant that there was not enough data to be able to say what the paper is saying, and that others may question the science.”

“It was so unusual to have an agency basically say: ‘Don’t do a press release,’ ” Hodson recalled in an interview. “We stand for spreading the word about the science we do, especially when it has a potential impact on millions and millions of people.”

Researchers say the failure to publicize their work damages the credibility of the Agriculture Department and represents an unwarranted political intrusion into science.

“Why the hell is the U.S., which is ostensibly the leader in science research, ignoring this?” said one USDA scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid the possibility of retaliation. “It’s not like we’re working on something that’s esoteric … we’re working on something that has dire consequences for the entire planet.”

“You can only postpone reality for so long,” the researcher added.

* * *

With a budget of just over $1 billion, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service — known as ARS — is often referred to as “one of the best kept secrets” in the sprawling department because of its outsize impact on society. The agency has pioneered a variety of major breakthroughs, from figuring out how to mass produce penicillin so it could be widely used during World War II to coming up with creative ways to keep sliced apples from browning, and has for decades been at the forefront of understanding how a changing climate will affect agriculture.

The agency has stringent guidelines to prevent political meddling in research projects themselves. The Trump administration, researchers say, is not directly censoring scientific findings or black-balling research on climate change. Instead, they say, officials are essentially choosing to ignore or downplay findings that don’t line up with the administration’s agenda. . .

Continue reading.

The USDA is a bad agency, even in its food recommendations.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 12:17 pm

Something is SERIOUSLY wrong with the Border Patrol: “Bodies and minds are breaking down”: Inside US border agency’s suicide crisis

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And somehow I don’t think Trump’s the guy who can fix it.  Justin Rohrlich & Zoë Schlanger report in Quartz:

Mental health issues are plaguing the ranks of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as officers deal with increasing job stress related to the crisis at the southern border and lingering financial problems caused by the partial government shutdown.

In May, CBP asked for an additional $2.1 million for the agency’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides counseling and other help to workers facing personal or job-related issues. The additional money was needed, CBP wrote in a funding request obtained by Quartz, to respond to the “health and safety of its workforce.”

“EAP use…increased in response to unanticipated critical incidents and other emerging crises, such as the unexpected response required for migrant caravans, employee suicides, and the need for a financial wellness program after the extended partial federal government shutdown,” CBP wrote in the filing. “The unanticipated and unprecedented situation at the southern border over the past 12 months resulted in a significant increase in EAP activity and it is expected to continue while the migrant crisis is ongoing.”

Current and former CBP officers, union leaders, and internal CBP documents all describe an agency that is overburdened and understaffed, struggling to keep up with the growing crisis sparked by the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration. To handle the rush of detentions, the agency now requires mandatory overtime and forced job relocation to bolster its ranks. This added pressure, coupled with the usual strain of working border security and dealing with often desperate families seeking asylum—many of whom face indefinite detention as they await overloaded court systems—is wearing down the force.

According to its own records, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CBP’s parent agency, has known about this issue for years. But its efforts to address the problem have been intermittent and neglected. And according to at least one expert, agency supervisors have in fact actively discouraged officers from seeking the help they need.

While the emotional stress affecting CBP officers can’t compare to the suffering of the tens of thousands of migrants they detain, the same government policies are at the heart of both problems.

“My continuing thought has been that this level of activity combined with the disastrous policy of wholesale separating children from parents has a very negative impact on CBP personnel. They did not join to take a 2-year-old from his mother,” former CBP commissioner Gil Kerlikowske told Quartz.

For three straight years, law enforcement suicides in the United States have surpassed line of duty deaths. At CBP, one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country, more than 100 employees died by suicide between 2007 and 2018, according to the agency itself. Morale among CBP officers ranks among the lowest of all federal agencies.

Tony Reardon, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents CBP officers, confirmed that stress at the agency is higher than it has been in the past. The force is overworked, he said, and the migrant crisis has changed the nature of the job.

“You have human beings, their bodies and their minds, breaking down,” Reardon said. 

Vincent Salgado, a CBP officer at the Calexico border crossing in California, said the excessive overtime is exhausting. “The morale is down,” he told Quartz. While he doesn’t personally know anyone at CBP who has died by suicide, Salgado said he’s aware that it’s a problem. “Suicides have been ongoing.”

When a CBP officer takes their own life, word typically reaches Reardon through the union’s local chapter staff, who sometimes helps grieving families navigate the life insurance process. “I’ve gotten the phone calls. It’s heartbreaking when you hear about someone who is not able to cope, and who ends up leaving their family,” Reardon said.

He doesn’t have access to data about how many officers have died by suicide recently, but he said he noticed an unsettling uptick in those phone calls, beginning about two years ago. “It started to look like, whoa, there’s a problem here.”

He’s spoken with CBP officials about the need to more urgently address the issue. “I know they’re trying to deal with it. I’m continuing to talk to them about trying to get even more done.”

The union also represents employees of 32 other US federal agencies. “I’m sure that there are people who commit suicide in other agencies,” Reardon said, but “the only suicides I’ve been made aware of are those at CBP.”

Overworked

A nationwide and ongoing CBP officer shortage means that virtually everyone at the agency is working mandatory double shifts that add up to 16-hour days. Salgado said he works double shifts two to three times a week.

“It means less time at home. You don’t have the opportunity to see family members, or attend special outings,” he said.

What’s worse, managers often tell officers they have to work a double shift with very little notice, often on the same day. And refusing is not an option. “It’s a requirement of the job,” Salgado said.

Understaffed ports also means more work per person every shift.

“If it’s not the overtime, it’s the workload,” Salgado said. “Everything works hand in hand. The overtime pushes them to exhaustion, especially if they’re having to do it two or three days in a row. And it’s not just exhaustion, it’s their family life.”

At the same time, some officers are still struggling to regain their footing after the 35-day partial government shutdown that straddled 2018 and 2019. Many officers were required to work without pay for two pay periods in a row. This is no small thing when roughly 78% of US workers live paycheck to paycheck.

“They had to deal with all the stressors that come from those situations. Can’t pay your mortgage, can’t pay your rent, cause you don’t have any money,” Reardon said. “Many of them are still trying to catch up.”

Understaffed

CBP has long struggled to both find and retain officers. The time-to-hire for a CBP officer, from the recruitment to job offer, takes an average of 300 days. Its staffing shortfall now, according to the union that represents its employees, is 3,700 officers.

And due to the crisis at the southern border, the workload is rising, requiring the agency to accomplish more with fewer people. At locations along the southern border, the conditions are a particularly hard sell. Many officers live in remote, lonely towns, and work in 120-degree heat.

As CBP official Benjamine “Carry” Huffman and Border Patrol sector chief Rodolfo Karisch put it in testimony to Congress in March:

“One example of a hard-to-fill location is Lukeville, Arizona. Although many of our Arizona border locations are remote and hard-to-fill, Lukeville is particularly challenging. It is an isolated outpost along the Mexican border, in a community of fewer than 50 people. It has one small grocery store and gas station. The closest school and medical clinic is 39 miles away in Ajo, Arizona. The nearest metropolitan area—Phoenix—is 150 miles away. The climate is especially harsh; in the summer, many of the local roads are impassable because of monsoons. Furthermore, the groundwater in Lukeville requires significant treatment to make it potable, due to traces of arsenic.”

At the same hearing, the two said the harsh conditions make officers “reluctant to encourage their family members or friends to seek employment with CBP.”

But the agency desperately needs bodies. Between 2015 and 2016, CBP “nearly tripled” its recruiting events across the country, according to a USA Today investigation, showing up at  “country music concerts, NASCAR races and Professional Bull Riders events to find applicants.”

In 2017, US president Donald Trump signed an executive orderdemanding CBP hire 15,000 more personnel, 10,000 more CBP officers and 5,000 more Border Patrol agents. In 2018, CBP only managed to hire 368 CBP officers and 118 Border Patrol agents. An extensive application, involving a polygraph test that more than 40% of applicants fail, makes the hiring process extremely slow.

To hire those 5,000 Border Patrol agents alone, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General estimated that the agency would have to screen 750,000 applicants.

To help relieve these staff shortages on the southern border, CBP has begun reassigning officers from other ports of entry. There are 328 locations in the United States where migrants can legally cross and that are staffed by CBP officers, and most of them are nothing like the southern border. Many are relatively sleepy, like some of the smaller ports on the Great Lakes along the border with Canada.

These temporary new assignments used to be voluntary, but because there are so few willing to go, the agency has begun “drafting” people, requiring them to make the move. These drafted officers are given three or four days notice to get on a plane and head south, Reardon said. “Most people have families. You can’t give them a month’s notice?” Reardon asked when he testified to Congress in March. The involuntary overtime and involuntary reassignments, he said, “disrupts” families and “destroys morale.”

The draft policywhich began in 2015 but has intensified under Trump, means that an officer from, say, a quiet port on the border with Canada could suddenly find themselves in the crushing heat of southern Texas, working double shifts in packed migrant detention centers. Known as “Operation Southern Support,” the policy also leaves ports of entry in other parts of the county understaffed, increasing the workload on the coworkers left behind. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 12:05 pm

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