Roundup: Cheese, Land Banks, #PrezRezVisit
Happy weekend! Here are some of the things that caught my eye this week:
The FDA, a truly bad NY Times pun, and the fate of my favorite food
On Wednesday, the New York Times published a story with a pretty tame headline, but the Tweet they wrote for it caused some major eye-rolls: "An F.D.A. ruling on cheese has produced a stink that rivals Limburger." But, being a huge cheese lover (and living in artisanal product heaven - Brooklyn), I was intrigued. Turns out the FDA is concerned about the use of wooden boards to age cheese; because of their porous nature, it's not clear how well they can be cleaned, potentially raising the risk of the spread of Listeria and other bacteria.
A lot of cheese is aged on wooden boards, including one of my personal favorites - cheddar. And the FDA's concern extends to imported cheese as well. I keep using the word "concern" and not "rule" or "ruling," because later in the week the FDA published a comment on its Facebook page in response to the mini-uproar created by the Times article:
"The FDA does not have a new policy banning the use of wooden shelves in cheese-making, nor is there any FSMA requirement in effect that addresses this issue...Moreover, the FDA has not taken any enforcement action based solely on the use of wooden shelves."
It is concerned about the boards/shelves though, and said it "is always open to evidence that shows that wood can be safely used for specific purposes, such as aging cheese."
The Times and other publications painted it as a "retraction" or a "backpedaling," and a hopeful end to the cheesepocalypse. Here's the official, more detailed statement from the FDA so you can decide for yourself.
New York adding 10 more land banks
This is a little less exciting than cheese, but I found them both equally interesting this week. The New York state legislature has passed a bill that would double the number of land banks in the state, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign it soon.
Land banks give municipalities a way to aggregate parcels of blighted or underdeveloped land, making it easier to sell them for redevelopment. Cuomo initiated New York's land bank program in 2011 in an effort to speed up economic recovery in some of the cities hardest hit by the economic downturn. The state has the capacity for 10 land banks right now, and with the new law will be able to create 10 more.
I wrote this week for Law360 about what property owners and developers across the state (and their attorneys) should know if their city - or a city they want to invest in - creates a land bank.
Obama becomes third president in 76 years to visit Indian Country
I am a big fan of Twitter hashtags for livetweeting, humor, activism, and for bringing attention to things that I might not otherwise notice are happening. The latter happened on Friday when I started noticing the #PrezRezVisit hashtag. A lot of the Tweets were from Native Americans concerned about the lack of media coverage the event was getting and expressing skepticism about how the event would actually play out.
The president visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in North Dakota, and the main theme seemed to be that the U.S. could be doing a lot more to support tribal nations, particularly with regard to education and economic programs. Obama's speech included some specific goals: reforms at the Bureau of Indian Education and the removal of red tape that impairs infrastructure and other developments on tribal lands.
The event was livecast on WhiteHouse.gov (you can see the video here), and the general feeling, on Twitter at least, was that it was a positive, productive day that had been a long time coming.