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Finding Good CFL Bulbs

March 29, 2011

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The Old House Journal has a terrific article at oldhouseweb.com/blog/how-to-find-energy-efficient-bulbs-that-dont-suck-nutrition-facts-for-light-bulbs.

Starting in January 2011 light bulbs are required to be labeled with lumens, watts, kelvins and efficacy. Greek to you too? Not worry. The label is now clear, easy to understand and full of fun colors.

It’s good news to me. Here in New York State, we will be forced to use only CFLs (or LEDs) for lighting. I have discovered that not all CFLs are created equal, and have often wondered why the differences seems so enigmatic. I had no idea about kelvins and lumens and all that jazz. I recently purchased some “full spectrum” bulbs for our desk lamps, in the hopes that these bulbs would give us a little energy perk and cheer up our spirits on the gloomy days that New York often suffers. I’d heard that full spectrum bulbs simulate sunlight and therefore help improve mood and make you faster than a speeding bullet and etc. Honestly, I don’t rely on light bulbs to cure diseases! But if full spectrum bulbs give us a little psychological boost, then, hey- why not? Honestly, I can’t say I have noticed a huge difference. Maybe. I’m a pretty chipper person, anyway, especially when I’m at my desk. 😀

Anyway, now we have a little guide for choosing CFLs. I like it. Here’s what Old House Journal said:

1. Bedroom and Living Room: Pick a bulb in the “yellow” range as close to 2700K as you can get.

2. Garage, Basement, Laundry and Utility Room: These are rooms where mimicking the sun is okay. So, look for bulbs in the “white” range and have a high color temperature of about 5800K. Don’t go too much higher than that or you’ll end up in the ugly “blue” range.

3. Computer Screen: There is a great free program I use called F.lux. It makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

For more specific information, see the lightingfacts.com/Downloads/Performance_Scale.pdf U.S. Department of Energy’s CFL lighting facts chart (opens as a pdf document).

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Incandescent vs. CFLs

March 28, 2011

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In 2012, sales of incandescent light bulbs in New York State will be illegal. The bulbs nominated to fill the void: Compact Fluorescent Lights, or CFLs. The government’s Energy Star website says that CFL bulbs use “75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and lasts up to 10 times longer.”

Honestly, I’ve been using CFL bulbs for certain rooms, and I haven’t seen any big difference between them an incandescent bulbs; CFLs may last a LITTLE longer than incandescent, but NO WAY not 10 times longer. Maybe 1.5 times. As a matter of fact, I filled my living room chandelier with CFL bulbs in December, and already one has blown. :-p These suckers are pricey, too. No one ever says that they COST 20 times more than incandescent. If you know of a website that offers some statistics, I’m curious.

Anyway, I’m mainly against CFLs because they contain mercury, one of the most toxic neurotoxins known to man. Currently, there is no system for disposal of the bulbs that we will all be forced to use. Oh, there are a whopping total of THREE recycling centers in New York State (all near Albany) that accept CFLs from residents only (at the time of this writing, to my knowledge). But what are homeowners to do with burned-out CFLs? Throw them in the trash for the landfills? Imagine all the mercury polluting the environment, seeping into the water system. Ugh.

Some experts recommend that we save all our CFLs until the state figures out how to dispose of them all.

Uh, hello? We are supposed to stash old bulbs in bags under our beds until you guys figure out what to do with them?! You mean you didn’t have this all planned out BEFORE you passed such a law?

*rolls eyes*

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

How about you? Is your state regulating CFLs? Do you see a noticeable difference between them and the incandescents?

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Real Estate Still Best Investment

March 19, 2011

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I still think real estate is the best investment you can make in the United States. I don’t care what the doomsayers are saying about the housing market. The brokers are biting their nails to shreds, worried that they can’t get Americans to buy buy buy this year. I read some news story (sorry, I can’t locate it the exact article now, nuts) that the U.S. housing market is at its worst in decades. But then I read local stories from around the country where their housing market (and economy) is just fine.

Fargo, North Dakota, is actually seeing a boon. usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2011-03-16-north-dakota-census_N.htm USA Today reports that the population and economy has surged to record levels. I’ve read similar stories for a few other areas, too.

But here in the Rust Belt, the economy is poor because of TAXES not because of lack of home buyers. The mathematics of trying to sustain a top-heavy public sector by an over-taxed, aging private sector always pans out to be a negative. It’s still too early to tell if any of these states (New York, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, etc) will really change their ways. So people are “voting with their feet.”

But the folks who are left are snapping up the properties left behind (although, in urban areas, the governments are buying vacant properties). I was recently talking with an acquaintance who has– in the last 5 years— purchased a dozen properties. He’s rented them all out and become a landlord. And he’s been so successful that he no longer needs to work his regular job anymore. That’s pretty neat.

As for me, I’m just “small fry.” I like owning one home (I have enough to do around here!) but if I ever got a windfall with money left over, I’d probably invest in real estate. I’d probably rent it out to tenants or even as a vacation home (according to Forbes, vacation rental properties are VERY hot right now, especially in cities). It’s an interesting shift.

So I don’t give a whole lot of weight to the constant nay-saying that the housing market and US economy (which is built on the housing market) is going under. People are just shifting priorities. People don’t need to constantly build build build new houses. I am very much in favor of making do with the houses we have. 🙂 So the “house-building boom” of the late 1990s is over. That doesn’t spell the end of the world. There’s a WHOLE market out there of renovators, people who want to fix up their old homes and spark the economy in that way. But sales and income taxes are too high in some areas. Let’s see what happens….

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Plastics: The Good, the Bad, The Ugly

February 27, 2011

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I seem to be on a roll these days regarding plastics, toxins, and the environment. I am by no means a “tree hugger,” as I do feel that modern technology has its place. Modern advances in manufacturing, technology and health have significantly improved our lives. But I will say that profligate abuse of the good earth God gave us is bad. I recently blogged about planned obsolescence and the toxins that are heavily incorporated into our lives and products. Plastics and materials such as styrofoam are in the news again. I recently saw on USAToday that there’s a developing move into “bioplastics.” Bioplastics are a biodegradable plastic derived from plant matter, not petroleum as most plastics are currently. This is from Wikipedia:

Bioplastics or organic plastics are a form of plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable oil, corn starch, pea starch, or microbiota, rather than fossil-fuel plastics which are derived from petroleum. Some, but not all, bioplastics are designed to biodegrade.

Interesting, no?

While I think biodegradable plastic is superb for many things, there are some things that I would not want to use it for. Take, for example, polyethylene sheets. These came on very handy for my renovation– I used them as drop “cloths,” tarps, covering furniture, and– most importantly– as my vapor barrier with insulation when I rebuilt the gutted walls.

DRinsulation

I surely would not want these to biodegrade over time! Nothing provides a superior moisture and air barrier than poly sheets.

Yet, I would think that plastic bag manufacturers could use biodegradable plastic, and make a WHOLE lot of people happy. The current petro-based bags NEVER degrade. Which reminds me, one of the kids place a couple of these bags in my compost bin and I have the pleasant job of digging then out this spring. :-p

Cups, packaging containers, package wrap, etc– these all are perfect candidates for this new wave of plastics. But I do think there’s a place for petro-plastics, still. I am very happy to see companies becoming more conscientious about reducing waste and toxins in our environment.

What do you think? Would you be more inclined to shop at a store that had biodegradable plastic bags? Or go to a coffee shop that served drinks in biodegradable coffee cups?

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Snow Shovels and Planned Obsolescence

February 26, 2011

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The Husband and I are rather sensitive to planned obsolescence. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see this post I wrote, Watch This Stuff. It’s a real eye opener!

Planned obsolescence is that deliberate scheme by a manufacturer to intentionally build a product that will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a period of time. I know you’ve encountered planned obsolescence. If you are older than 40 years old, you remember the good old days where if the toaster or VCR or RV or umbrella broke, you’d fix it, not throw it in the trash because it was unfixable. Well, manufacturers make things deliberately unfixable. That’s called “planned obsolescence.” And we just added another product to the list: the snow shovel.

Show shovels are PRICEY. And they do not last very long, either. The handles are pretty sturdy– and The Hubs loves the fancy handles with the thick spongy neoprene on them– these handles don’t hurt his back and give him superior grip. But the scoops of these shovels break. Like, after a few weeks! :-p The scoops are flimsy plastic.

My husband likes his fancy handle, so he attempted to remove the flimsy plastic scoop from the nice handle, and replace the scoop. No can do. The manufacturer glued and pinned and bolted and sealed it together. You have to buy a completely new shovel, another $35, please.

UGH.

That’s just wrong.

Oh well, spring is coming, spring is coming! I know it is! 😀

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What’s In Your Household Products?

February 24, 2011

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The kids and I have been learning more about the toxins in our environment as part of a health course we’re taking. Some of the information just BLOWS my MIND. Did you know that, 30 years after PCBs have been banned, the toxin is found in our bodies in huge amounts, still? That our drinking water is filled with pharmaceutical drugs? And that, mixed with the unsafe doses of flouride and chlorine make a toxic soup? It’s all pretty scary stuff. The book offers ways to reduce our exposure to toxins. In case you’d like to look it up, it’s called The Seven Pillars of Health by Dr. Dan Colbert. Pretty eye-opening stuff.

The most recent chapter in the book suggested we visit SafeCosmetics.org to see which health and beauty products are safe (or toxic) to us. Yikes, there are carcinogens in our shampoo, toothpaste and deodorants! What the heck is all this junk doing on our shelves?

The website features an interesting video by Annie Leonard, the same lady who did The Story of Stuff videos.

The lady has been attacked by conservative groups because she is a member of the kooky group Green Peace. But you know what? I care not if the information is coming from a socialist in this regard. Is what she is saying TRUE?! Are we in danger from all these toxins? I’d say the answer is yes! Now, I don’t necessarily agree that we should become a socialist nation with a law for every ingredient that goes into shampoo, as Annie here suggests. I think she goes overboard when she says that. Because even in this video, she says there are companies ALREADY purposely making products WITHOUT the toxins, without laws that force them to do it! What companies and government need is PRESSURE from We the People. But if We the People says nothing, then they are just as complaisant in the poisons as the companies and governments. I don’t think we need the federal government regulating shampoo.

Anyway, it’s sure eye-opening. We need to change this, and pronto.

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Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You

February 21, 2011

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My husband is a part-time mail carrier. It’s not an easy job, especially in Upstate New York in the winter. Since the United States Post Office is in the news a lot right now (with all their financial problems and the threat of cutting Saturday delivery to make ends meet), I thought it would be cool to mention a few things about the post office– things you may not know because the media fails to report it.

Just for the record, I am against the USPS ending Saturday delivery. I think it would be fatal to the USPS, a really stupid move. What they SHOULD do is end the mandatory (super-expensive) pensions and perks that they dole out to retirees and veteran workers. [Note: I know this is a touchy subject, especially in light of the hooplah going on in Wisconsin. I feel the same way about things in NY– it’s too expensive to maintain a top-heavy government, and painful choices are being made.] There’s also quite a bit of waste in the USPS that can be slashed, but it takes acts of Congress to make these changes. The USPS is under government control, but they don’t receive a PENNY in tax money. Another example of waste is that some postal areas blend delivery areas– this doubles the expense of delivering mail because TWO or more offices serve ONE area.

Anyway, I saw a list at rd.com/13-things/13-things-your-mail-carrier-wont-tell-you/ 13 Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You at the Reader’s Digest website, and thought it was very worthy of passing on. These are all things my husband has brought up in one way or another. I include the best here. My own comments are in regular type.

  • Maybe your dog won’t bite you. But in 2009, 2,863 of us were bitten, an average of nine bites per delivery day. That’s why I wince when your Doberman comes flying out the door. My husband has told me quite a few stories of some VERY close calls he’s had with dogs that “wouldn’t hurt a flea.” Uh huh. Folks, do you want your mail? Keep the dog inside. My kids need their dad home, not in a hospital.
  • Remember this on Valentine’s Day: It takes our machines longer to read addresses on red envelopes (especially if they’re written in colored ink).
  • Photo from Wikipedia

  • Media Mail is a bargain, but most of you don’t know to ask for it. Sending ten pounds of books from New York City to San Francisco through Media Mail costs $5.89, compared with $16.77 for Parcel Post. Besides books, use it to send manuscripts, DVDs, and CDs; just don’t include anything else in the package.
  • The USPS doesn’t get a penny of your tax dollars.
  • UPS and FedEx charge you $10 or more for messing up an address. Us? Not a cent. My husband will even make up the difference if an envelope is not properly stamped.
  • Paychecks, personal cards, letters—anything that looks like good news—I put those on top. Utility and credit card bills? They go under everything else. Junk mail, flyers, and mail for stuff like is cased at the bottom.
  • Mail carriers also have to endure- day after day– the smut and glut of porno and “ladies” magazines. Some magazines, like Playboy, are required to conceal their magazine covers with plastic or paper, but the “ladies” mags like “Shape” or “Cosmopolitan” do not, and those covers are sickening. I feel so sorry for mail carriers who have to endure that junk. You know, if the USPS forced such magazines to pay a little extra to cover their stuff, I’ll betcha that would solve the USPS financial problems in a one week, not to mention a whole lot of consciences and marriages.
  • Sorry if I seem like I’m in a hurry, but I’m under the gun: Our supervisors tell us when to leave, how many pieces of mail to deliver, and when we should aim to be back. Then some of us scan bar codes in mailboxes along our route so they can monitor our progress.
  • Yes, we do have to buy our own stamps, but a lot of us carry them for customers who need them. Very true! My husband always has a stash of stamps and he adds them gratis. He’s such a swell guy. Sad thing is, no one ever seems to realize how generous he really is. He also gets out of the car and moves your trash cans that have blown out in front of your mailbox, even though he does not HAVE to legally deliver your mail if there’s an impediment to your box.
  • Please dress properly when you come to the door. A towel wrapped around you doesn’t cut it. And we definitely don’t want to see you in your underwear—or naked! My husband has had a few very uncomfortable encounters with ladies who treat the mailman as if he was some kind of nobody, not worthy of respect. It’s not fun to have to deliver mail to jiggly ladies who wear less cotton than an aspirin bottle. :-p
  • We serve 150 million addresses six days a week, so we’re often in the right place at the right time. We pull people out of burning cars, catch burglars in the act, and call 911 to report traffic accidents, dead bodies, and more. My husband actually came to the rescue of an older, heavyset gentlemen living in a rural area who had fallen and couldn’t get up. His wife was trying to help him, but she was too weak to lift him. Together, my husband and the lady couldn’t even lift him, so my husband waited with the couple at their home until a rescue team arrived, because the wife was so stressed. It took the rescue team half an hour to get there, and that was time out of my husband’s day (and he was late for his second job, too).
  • Most of us don’t mind if you pull up to our trucks while we’re delivering and ask for your mail a little early. But please get out of your car and come get it. Don’t just put your hand out your window and wait for me to bring it to you.
  • We go to great lengths to deliver to every address, no matter how remote. That’s why, in the most rural areas, even UPS and FedEx rely on us to make their final deliveries. True. And some places are VERY remote. I have had to rescue my husband out of some places, too. One rural place, he ran out of gas. And another time, during a snowstorm, the van slipped into a ditch and fell in sideways. I had to try to tow him out (couldn’t) so we called a tow truck. All the while, the mail delivery was delayed. What was really sad was that, while we were out in the storm waiting for a tow truck, a customer on the route with a honking big SUV roared by us, didn’t even stop to help. 🙁 But he got his mail with a smile, anyway.
  • Those plants around your mailbox are beautiful, but I’d like them better if you kept them trimmed back. Please don’t plant flowers because bees and ants like them.
  • Is it hot enough for me? The heat index is 110 degrees. What do you think? (Instead of asking that, offer me a cold drink.)
  • Despite the “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” motto, we’re instructed not to deliver to a mailbox if the snow and ice around it isn’t cleared. Most of us take the motto to heart, though, and do our best to deliver in even the most hazardous conditions. My husband does everything humanly possible to deliver the mail, even for rude people who do not shovel their boxes out. And you know what? If the mail can’t get delivered that day, it has to be delivered the NEXT day– that’s TWO days mail that has to be delivered in ONE day in the same amount of time. And my husband has actually had to call in unavailable for his second job because the mail delivery was so heavy that day– so, he LOST money because he lost HOURS on his other job, because some folks didn’t shovel their mailboxes out and that made a chain reaction with the mail load. So give the mailman a break.
  • I have people who leave a letter in their box and tape 44 cents in change to it. I’ll take it, but the next day I’ll be waiting in line like everyone else to buy you a stamp.
  • It’s a small thing that makes my job so much easier: Please park your car in the driveway instead of in front of the mailbox. I live on a busy street, and while I never park in front of my mailbox, lots of people do. That means, I don’t get my mail because their car is in the way. 🙁

I hope this gives a little perspective on the USPS and the millions of men and women who work there. These people work very hard and deal with a multitude of mail products, people, weather and animals. I think they deserve our support! Thanks for reading. 🙂

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The Tweeners

February 10, 2011

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I’m a tweener right now. Probably most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are! A “tweener” is what I call a person who is stuck between one weather season going out and another struggling to get in. In other words– we’ve reached the end of our tolerance for one season, and are eager to get into the next! While I like the snow and even the cold, I am sick of the ice and ice dams. Yet, I am torn, because I am one of the very rare people who dislike spring. Spring is wet, soggy, damp, cold, muddy. I am chilled more in spring weather then I am in the winter! I think it’s because spring is so clammy and damp. I dislike it. So I’m a tweener. Ready to see the winter go, but not really eager to see muddy spring come. Hmmm….

freshsnow2

So far, spring is nowhere in sight...

In other news, we got approved for a home equity loan! HURRAY! I used credit cards and cash for the renovation expenses last summer. The cards had good promotional rates, which have now ended. So we applied for a loan and got approved. I like the scheduled payments, I like the routine. I’m praying with all my heart that we can get this loan paid off very soon, because we have the entire UPSTAIRS of the house to do yet!! Then, we tackle the exterior– we’ll need a new roof, new siding…. *sigh*

I am relatively new to home equity loans. Any kind of loan, especially on my beloved home, makes me nervous. It’s all out of pocket, all on our own. It is a REALLY gratifying feeling, though, to see your home’s value skyrocket because you sweated it out one summer. I am so proud of my kids, who helped with our renovations– thanks to our persistent work, we increased the value of our home AND “earned” money enough to refinance everything with a little extra, too. No wonder it’s called sweat equity! I am so thankful for my kids. I couldn’t have done this without them. And now, of course, comes the paying it all off!!! Which reminds me, I better get back to work….

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Home Ownership Down

January 31, 2011

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Home ownership rates continue to plummet. According to CNBC, Americans just aren’t buying homes so much.

America’s home ownership rate, after holding steady for a while, took a pretty big plunge in Q4, from 66.9 percent to 66.5 percent. That’s down from the 2004 peak of 69.2 percent and the lowest level since 1998.

Homeownership is falling at an alarming pace, despite the fact that home prices have fallen, affordability is much improved and inventories of new and existing homes are still running quite high.

Bargains abound, but few are interested or eligible to take advantage.

What’s even more shocking is that 11% of U.S. homes sit empty.

There were 18.4 million vacant homes in the U.S. in Q4 ’10 (11 percent of all housing units vacant all year round), which is actually an improvement of 427,000 from a year ago, but not for the reasons you’d think.

The number of vacant homes for rent fell by 493 thousand, as rental demand rose. 471,000 homes are listed as “Held off Market” about half for temporary use, but the other half are likely foreclosures. And no, the shadow inventory isn’t just 200,000, it’s far higher than that.

Not sure why, but I can guess. For one, Americans are uneasy about the economy. The government is spending like a MANIAC, China is rising almost as fast as our debt and interest rates… and who is earning enough to pay back those loans?

One of our Upstate cities was listed by Zillow.com as the Number One city in America to buy an affordable home. Everyone up here was practically waving flags: We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

But…. we have the “most affordable” homes in the nation– you mean the lowest priced? Isn’t that, like, bad?! And what good is it getting a cheap home for $25,000 in a city that is near bankruptcy and where property taxes are $7,000 a year?! How can that be a cause for celebration?

Economists and politicians alike go on and on, saying that the home construction and home ownership industry is the backbone of the American economy. So why are the banks and politicians selling Americans so short that we cannot afford the homes?

I don’t like this transition into a society that rents their homes. Property ownership is the backbone of the United States, property ownership gives citizens a vested interest in their community. Whatever happened to Life, LIberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?

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They Ain’t Kidding: Toxic Sludge Candy Bar Really IS Toxic

January 18, 2011

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Yuk.

I just read a press release regarding a “voluntary” recall by the FDA and Circle City Marketing and Distributing for their Toxic Waste® brand Nuclear Sludge® Chew Bars. Apparently, the State of California Department of Public Health discovered “elevated levels of lead (0.24 parts per million; the U.S. FDA tolerance is 0.1 ppm) that potentially could cause health problems, particularly for infants, small children, and pregnant women.” You can read about the recall at the FDA site: fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm240012.htm Candy Dynamics Recalls Toxic Waste® brand Nuclear Sludge® Chew Bars.


I guess they weren’t kidding about the “toxic sludge,” huh?

The food is imported from Pakistan. The story does not say if the food is labeled that it is from Pakistan. I have never seen this food, so I don’t know.

You know, it’s REALLY STUPID to have such restrictive laws in the United States about lead and other toxic junk in our food produced here, only to have companies make the food in foreign countries who have little to no protection, and ship it here for U.S. consumers. 100 years ago, a foreign country that took our money and poisoned our food at our expense was a call for war. Today, it’s globalization and “business.”

I’m not a warmonger, nor do I think that we should go to war with Pakistan! (I always have insert these disclaimers because there are knuckleheads out there who troll the Internet looking to inflame). But if globalization means poisoning our own people because the politicians like their pockets lined from Big Business who makes the bucks overseas, then I’d rather go back to isolationism and nativism. Yay, even xenophobia sounds good right about now. :-p

ANYWAY. All I’m saying is that all our big, fancy U.S. laws that are supposed to protect Americans from toxic chemicals in the food mean absolutely nothing if we get our foods from another country!!! Is our country so impoverished that we cannot even provide our OWN food anymore?! That we cannot even set standards for the products coming into our OWN country?!

Anyway, I wouldn’t be very inclined to eat ANYTHING labeled as “toxic sludge,” would you? Plus, these things are touted as “chew bars,” but I think they are just candy bars.

I have been so unhappy with our country removing our manufacturing industry overseas. Now, they are moving even our food industry overseas. We all may as well stamp Americans’ heads “Made in China” as soon as our kids are born…. 🙁

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