Prison Hunger Strike, Honeybee Die Off, FDA Targets Salt Reduction

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Wisconsin beekeepers are grappling with a larger than normal bee die off this year. We’ll find out what might be behidn the loss. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently released new guidelines suggesting Americans cut their salt consumption by a third. Our guest explains the reasoning behind the change, and how it will affect our diets. We also look at a prison hunger strike that’s expected to start later this week.

Featured in this Show

  • Wisconsin Beekeepers See Major Honeybee Hive Losses

    Bees across the country have been struggling with die-offs linked to insecticides and the varroa mite parasite. Last year, turned out to be an especially bad year for beekeepers in Wisconsin, with nearly 60 percent of honeybees in the state dying.

    “Many beekeepers consider 15 percent to be an acceptable die-off rate year-to-year. So, if you’re looking at 60 percent, that’s about four times of what is manageable,” said Nate Beck, a reporter with USA-Today Network, Wisconsin.

    Beck said the situation is that now, high honeybee die-off rates are the norm in Wisconsin. He said in six of the last seven years, the die-off rates have exceeded 30 percent.

    The die-offs have many concerned as a significant chunk of Wisconsin’s crops rely on honeybee pollination from year-to-year.

    “There’s a saying within the beekeeping community that one in every three bites you take comes from a bee, that’s fruits, nuts and the like. They’re really an integral part to how we eat food and our quality of life,” said Beck.

    Beekeepers across the state are forced to import honeybees from around the world to maintain their hives, and it’s lead to a kind of cottage industry of bee transporters. Beck profiled a Rhinelander man who has growing business traveling to southern California each spring during the state’s peak bee season and brings honey bees back by the truckload, later distributing them across the Midwest.

    “This year, he’ll haul about $750,000 of bees alone, and that’s not counting all the beekeeping supplies that he brings back to Wisconsin. People are reliant on him, and there’s quite a bit of demand,” Beck said.

    The supply-economics has led to a spike in prices, too. Beck said 10 years ago, a hive worth of bees went for about $35 to $40. Today, that costs have jumped to about $140.

    Other beekeepers are importing honeybees from Russian, which some say may be more resistant to varroa mite parasite although Beck said the research isn’t in yet on those claims. He added that academic institutions and organizations continue to study the problem looking for answers.

  • Wisconsin Inmates Plan Hunger Strike To Protest Indefinite Solitary Confinement

    A group of Wisconsin inmates plan to go on a hunger strike later this week to protest indefinite solitary confinement among other prison policies.

    The protest is set to begin this Friday at the Waupun Correctional Institution, according to Dee Hall, managing editor at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. She said she received the lawsuit filed by one of the prison’s inmates against the state Department of Corrections.

    The Department of Corrections recently reduced the maximum time an inmate can spend in solitary from 360 days down to 90 for any disciplinary infraction. However, Hall said prison guards at the Waupun Correctional Institution have been able to put prisoners in solitary indefinitely under “administrative confinement,” which, is technically non-punitive.

    “What (administrative confinement) is intended to do is to separate prisoners who are considered to be dangerous from other prisoners. Also, any prisoners who are thought to incite violence,” said Hall. “But the conditions that are described in administrative confinement are fairly similar if not identical to solitary confinement. It’s at least 23 hours a day in a cell by themselves. The few times that they are let out during the week, it’s just very briefly.”

    One of the inmates who filed the lawsuit alleges that he’s been alone in a cell under administrative confinement for about 25 years. Hall said the same inmate has attempted escape several times. In one high-profile attempt, the inmate shot a deputy sheriff. Moreover, Hall said prison officials claim the inmate incites violence.

    In addition to banning indefinite solitary confinement, the inmates are demanding other policy changes.

    “They also want some more oversight of the way the state uses solitary confinement,” said Hall. “They believe that it’s completely unmonitored by anyone outside of the prison system.”

    The prisoners are also demanding for improved mental health care and psychological services for those who serve time in solitary due to what Hall said was a well-recognized connection to psychological stress.

    Prison officials have not yet announced how they plan to handle the hunger strike, according to Hall. However, she said it is possible under a court order to force feed inmates.

    Several local organizations are supporting the inmates’ decision to go on the hunger strike, including the Industrial Workers of the World and WISDOM, a faith-based prisoner advocacy nonprofit.

    The hunger strike comes at a time when issues of solitary confinement are being discussed all over the country. Colorado and California have banned the use of indefinite solitary confinement. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama banned solitary confinement of juveniles in federal prisons.

  • Hunger Strike Set To Begin This Week At State Prison Over Use Of Long-Term Solitary Confinement

    A group of prisoners at the Waupun Correctional Institution plan to launch a hunger strike later this week, a protest against the use of long-term solitary confinement. A reporter looks at the goals of the strike, who’s backing it, and how the Department of Corrections is preparing for it.

  • State Beekeepers See Major Honeybee Hive Losses

    State and national honeybee populations continue to struggle, as experts estimate nearly 44 percent of bees died off nationwide this year. Our guest looks at the current state of honeybees in Wisconsin, and what is being done to help them.

  • FDA Looks For Reduction In Added Salt To Food Products

    The FDA has issued voluntary guidelines to the food industry aimed at reducing the amount of added salt in our foods. A food reporter breaks down the new guidelines and discusses the role of salt in our diets.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Producer
  • Chris Malina Producer
  • Nate Beck Guest
  • Dee Hall Guest
  • Allison Aubrey Guest

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