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Meet the beautiful graduate who sells cassava at Agbogbloshie

We have chanced on very delightful photos of a graduate stocked at the shop of her mother selling food stuffs.

The young lady according to source is believed to be identified as Nana Akosua Dansoa and it comes to us as a surprise to see such a beautiful lady like Nana Akosua restrict herself to the confines of her mother’s small shop whilst her colleagues are making exploits with their beauty.

Of course, from the photo you will see below, she appears very happy spending time with her old mother after graduating from the university.

Unlike other ladies who will be slaying their bodies out to men, Nana Akosua has chosen to keep herself for the right man.

To find her in such a place suggests that she will be great house wife and possesses the qualities of a marriage material men should take note of.

Her mum’s shop is located in the market so she also stands a good chance of meeting a man who will go to the market to shop for foodstuff alone because he is single.

Akosua’s mum sells cassava, plantain, Kontonmire and others.

See the stunning photos of Akosua below

https://www.browngh.com/graduate-cassava/

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12 foods that will help you survive cold and flu season

Second to the chills, the worst thing about coming down with a cold or flu is losing your appetite. What is life without being able to eat?

But here’s why you should suck it up and chow down anyway: Since a cold and the flu are both caused by viruses, foods with antiviral properties may speed up recovery (or fight off those viruses in the first place), says Monica Auslander Moreno, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition.

Here are the best foods for a cold or flu that you should put in your shopping cart ASAP.

1. Chicken soup

There’s a reason your mom always had a bowl of this at the first sign of sniffles. Not only does chicken soup provide the fluids you need to help fight off viruses, but it also reduces the inflammation that triggers symptoms and leads to more colds.

2. Citrus fruits

Vitamin C, most commonly found in citrus fruits, is an antioxidant that can reduce cold symptoms, says Dr James A Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods.

Get your C from supplements or from vitamin-packed citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, papaya, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

3. Garlic, onions and leeks



Kissing is off the table to prevent the spread of germs, so you might as well indulge in this pungent garnish (along with its antiviral cousins onions, chives, and leeks) to help fight that nagging cold. “It has long been revered in its ability to help natural killer cells purge the body of invaders,” says Moreno.

4. Ginger

Ginger contains chemicals called sesquiterpenes that specifically target rhinoviruses, the most common family of cold viruses, as well as substances that suppress coughing. It also contains anti-inflammatory gingerols that can fight infection.

Adding a couple of tablespoons of shredded ginger root to your tea can do the trick, but you can also look for ginger chews or real ginger ale, although most of the canned stuff has very little real ginger.

5. Honey

Honey is often touted as a cure-all for everything from burns (put raw honey on a burn as soon as possible to speed healing) to cuts and scrapes (honey’s natural antiseptic properties allow it to work a bit like hydrogen peroxide).

Because it coats your throat, it’s a great cold- and flu-friendly sore-throat reliever, and its natural antioxidant and antimicrobial properties help fight infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi.

6. Kefir

Kefir is loaded with probiotics that strengthen your immune system, says Dr Mike Roussell. With more protein than yoghurt and milk, it also regulates digestion, enabling your body to actually use all the kilojoules and nutrients you consume, he says.

Other fermented foods like sauerkraut, dill, carrots, kimchi and kombucha also get the job done by populating your gut with good bacteria, thereby potentially leading to fewer colds.

7. Selenium-rich foods

A single ounce of Brazil nuts contains well above your recommended daily value for selenium, a mineral that helps boost your immunity. Having enough selenium in your body increases its production of cytokines, which help remove the flu virus, says Dr Duke.

Other sources of selenium include lobster, oysters, clams, crabs and tuna.

8. Red wine

The resveratrol and polyphenols in red wine work the same way that beneficial bacteria in yoghurt do, says Dr Duke. When cold and flu viruses enter your system, they start to multiply, and these compounds prevent that from happening.

To get the most bang for your buck, grab a bottle of pinot noir. Tests have found it to have some of the highest levels of resveratrol.

9. Mushrooms

While mushrooms have long been a staple in Chinese healing, they’re having a modern medicinal moment. Moreno says they likely have antiviral properties, thanks in large part to their rich vitamin D content. They produce cytokines, a cellular protein, which helps fight off infections. Their polysaccharidesare another class of compounds that boost immunity.

10. Carbohydrates

For frequent exercisers, Dr Roussell recommends not going crazy with the carb-cutting. “Taking in carbs while you’re training helps counter immune dysfunction and immune inflammatory responses due to the stress hormones released during hard exercise.” Translation: Those carbs are helping your body stay strong.

11. Fatty fish

Good thing there are many fish in the sea – Dr Roussell says their vitamin D content helps maintain optimal blood levels when your body isn’t converting much of the vitamin from sunlight. A bonus is that stocking up on vitamin D may help fight certain cancers, strengthen bones and aid in weight loss, too, he adds.

12. Zinc-rich foods

Moreno says that due its high zinc content, lamb is a strong contender for cold-fighting food of the year. One recent study found that consuming zinc at the onset of a cold shortened it by one day, and consuming a preventative tablet daily reduced its severity. Other great zinc-packed options include pumpkin seeds and chickpeas.

https://www.theindependentghana.com/en/component/content/article/63-homepage-lifestyle/36275-12-foods-that-will-help-you-survive-cold-and-flu-season.html?Itemid=187

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Valentine's Day: Japan falling out of love with 'obligation chocolates'

Around the world, people use chocolate treats to express sweet nothings on Valentine's Day.

But in Japan, it's a little more complicated. On Valentine's Day, only women give chocolate, and not just to their partners, but to their male colleagues too.

Critics say the practice sucks all the fun out of Valentine's Day and instead turns it into a dreary duty where women risk offending co-workers if they leave someone out.

Others say "giri choco", which translates to "obligation chocolate" is a little misunderstood, and besides, it's slowly fading as women opt to give chocolate to their friends instead.

'Obligation chocolate'

Of course, giving chocolate on Valentine's Day can also be a romantic gesture. Women will often give "honmei choco" or "true feelings chocolate" to their partners.

But giri choco is more about expressing appreciation to male colleagues.

A 2017 survey by multinational firm 3M found that nearly 40% of female respondents planned to give giri choco to a co-worker.

A woman looks at a tray of chocolates

For most, it was a simple thank you "for general help and support". Others felt it helped promote a smoother workplace, while a small minority felt it would be awkward not to take part.

Not so sweet

Chocolate journalist Ayumi Ichikawa says many women have no problem with giri choco. After all, Japan has a gift-giving culture, so it doesn't seem out of place.

"It's part of our tradition to give presents to people who 'help us'... and we have a habit of giving friends and acquaintances gifts every now and then to show our gratitude for 'looking after us'... without any sense of romantic love."

But others are troubled by the custom.

"Some consider the ritual burdensome, feeling you must do this, so the chocolate becomes a duty," Ms Ichikawa says.

Still, University of Shizuoka professor Sejiro Takeshita says the tradition isn't as "unfair as it looks".

On 14 March Japan celebrates White Day, when men give chocolates to women and, Prof Takeshita says, "ladies can get their vengeance".

Valentine's Day chocolate boxes

Power dynamics

In a 1996 study of "office women" sociologist Ogasawa Yuko argued giri choco is a way for women to exercise power over men by ranking them.

The ones they admire would get chocolate, while the incompetent ones could buy their own treats.

"In other words, it could be seen as one of the few opportunities for women to exercise power over men, resisting prevailing gendered norms," says Sachiko Horiguchi, an anthropologist at Temple University Japan.

More than two decades later, this might seem a little less appealing to Japanese working women.

"I am not sure if these professional women feel obliged to 'exercise their power' through giri choco gift giving," says Ms Horiguchi.

Chocolate battle

Last year the practice attracted an unexpected critic in the form of Belgian chocolatier Godiva. The company took out a full page ad calling for an end to giri choco.

"Valentine's Day is supposed to be a day when you tell someone your pure feelings. It's not a day on which you're supposed to do something extra for the sake of smooth relations at work," the ad said.

They followed up this year with a tweet to Yuraku Confectionery, the makers of Black Thunder, a low-cost chocolate and self-styled "king of giri choco".

Trays of chocolates

The tweet encouraged employees of Yuraku to buy Godiva to give to someone they loved, prompting Yuraku to add "officially recognized by Godiva as obligation chocolate" to its Twitter description.

Chocolate makers have an obvious stake in the discussion and it was commercial interests - initially department stores - that brought Valentine's Day to Japan in the first place.

Critics have also suggested that Godiva stands to lose little from this position, because it's a luxury brand which few people give as giri choco.

Japan's sweet tooth

Valentine's Day is hugely important for Japan's confectionery industry, with some shops doing 70% of their annual business in the lead-up to the holiday, says chocolate journalist Ms Ichikawa.

But over the coming years, maybe less of it will be giri choco.

Ms Horiguchi says Valentine's Day is becoming less gendered, and the pressure to give giri choco is declining as women opt to give chocolates to their friends instead.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47112489

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Which countries eat the most meat?

You may have heard an increasing number of people vow to reduce their meat eating lately - or cut it out altogether.

This often forms part of a bid to become healthier, reduce their environmental impact, or consider animal welfare.

third of Britons claim to have either stopped eating meat or reduced it, while two thirds of those in the US say they are eating less of at least one meat.

This trend is partly thanks to initiatives such as Meat-free Mondays and Veganuary. At the same time, a number of documentaries and high-profile advocates of veganism have highlighted the potential benefits of eating less meat.

But have these sentiments had any effect on the ground?

Rising incomes

What we do know is that global meat consumption has increased rapidly over the past 50 years.

Meat production today is nearly five times higher than in the early 1960s - from 70 million tonnes to more than 330 million tonnes in 2017.

Meat production by region

A big reason for this is that there are many more people to feed.

Over that period the world population more than doubled. In the early 1960s there were around three billion of us, and today there are more than 7.6 billion.

While population is part of the story, it doesn't entirely account for why meat production increased five-fold.

Another key factor is rising incomes.

Around the world, people have become richer, with the global average income more than tripling in half a century.

When we compare consumption across different countries we see that, typically, the richer we are the more meat we eat.

There are not just more people in the world - there are more people who can afford to eat meat.

Who eats the most meat?

We see a clear link with wealth when looking at patterns of meat consumption across the world.

In 2013, the most recent year available, the US and Australia topped the tables for annual meat consumption. Alongside New Zealand and Argentina, both countries topped more than 100kg per person, the equivalent to about 50 chickens or half a cow each.

In fact, high levels of meat consumption can be seen across the West, with most countries in Western Europe consuming between 80 and 90 kilograms of meat per person.

At the other end of the spectrum, many of the world's poorest countries eat very little meat.

Meat consumption by region

The average Ethiopian consumes just 7kg, Rwandans 8kg and Nigerians 9kg. This is 10 times less than the average European.

For those in low-income countries, meat is still very much a luxury.

These figures represent the amount of meat per head available for consumption, but do not account for any food wasted at home or on the shop floor. In reality, people eat slightly less meat than this, but it's still a close estimate.

Middle-income countries driving the demand for meat

It is clear that the richest countries eat a lot of meat, and those on low incomes eat little.

This has been the case for 50 years or more. So why are we collectively eating so much more meat?

This trend has been largely driven from a growing band of middle-income countries.

Rapidly growing nations like China and Brazil have seen significant economic growth in recent decades, and a large rise in meat consumption.

Meat consumption by selected country

In Kenya, meat consumption has changed little since 1960.

By contrast, the average person in 1960s China consumed less than 5kg a year. By the late 1980s this had risen to 20kg, and in the last few decades this has more than tripled to over 60kg.

The same thing happened in Brazil, where meat consumption has almost doubled since 1990 - overtaking almost all Western countries in the process.

India is one notable exception.

While average incomes have tripled since 1990, meat consumption hasn't followed suit.

It is a misconception that the majority of India is vegetarian - two thirds of Indians do eat at least some meat, according to a nationwide survey.

Nonetheless, the amount of meat consumed in India has remained small. At less than 4kg per person, it is the lowest in the world. This is likely to be partly down to cultural factors for some in India, including not eating certain types of meat for religious reasons.

Is meat consumption falling in the West?

Many in Europe and North America say they are trying to cut down on meat, but is it working?

Not really, according to statistics.

Recent data from the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA) suggests meat consumption per head has actually increased over the last few years.

While we may think that meat is becoming less popular, US consumption in 2018 was close to its highest in decades.

It's a similar picture with meat consumption in the EU.

Types of meat consumed in the US

While Western consumption of meat is steady, or slightly increasing, the types of meat eaten are changing.

This means less red meat - beef and pork - and more poultry.

In the US, poultry now accounts for half of meat consumption, up from a quarter in the 1970s.

These types of substitution could be good news for health and the environment.

The impact of meat

In some circumstances, eating meat can be beneficial.

Moderate quantities of meat and dairy can improve people's health, particularly in lower-income countries where diets may lack variety.

But in many countries, meat consumption goes far beyond basic nutritional benefits.

In fact, it could be a health risk. Studies have linked excess red and processed meat consumption with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.

Substituting chicken for beef or bacon could be a positive step.

This swap is also better for the environment as cows, in particular, are inefficient converters of feed to meat.

Compared to chicken, beef has anywhere in the range of three to 10 times as much impact on land use, water and greenhouse gas emissions. Pork is somewhere in between the two.

A future where meat consumption is sustainable and balanced across countries would require major changes.

This would mean not only a shift in the types of meat we eat, but also how much.

Essentially, meat would have to become more of a luxury again.

This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from an expert working for an outside organisation.

Hannah Ritchie is an Oxford Martin fellow, and is currently working as a researcher at OurWorldinData.org. This is a joint project between Oxford Martin and non-profit organisation Global Change Data Lab, which aims to present research on how the world is changing through interactive visualisations. You can follow her on Twitter here.

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47057341

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Did wine cause a full-sacle revolution in armenia

Born late-December 2012, In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. The cosy interior brims with hand-picked bottles; pungent cured meats and cheeses fill the deli counter; and passionate staff deliver a wealth of knowledge with every glass.(Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)

This scene would be familiar to most oenophiles, and is repeated in cities across the globe. So to understand the significance of this particular bar, some wider context about this corner of the Caucasus is needed.

In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan (Credit: Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)

In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan.

Armenia claims an enviable history. What are believed to be the oldest known traces of winemaking in the world have been found in the country’s south, at the 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site. Christianity first blossomed here. Literary, artistic, culinary and musical traditions pre-date many ancient civilisations. But modern times have been defined by struggle.

Ottoman occupation in the early-20th Century turned from oppression to mass killings, decimating the population and significantly shrinking borders in the process. Soviet rule, beginning in 1922, restricted opportunities and options – and independence in 1991 resulted in kleptocratic decisions where industrial assets were stripped with little investment to plug the gaps.

Additionally, territorial disputes became numerous. Borders with neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed, and swathes of land have been annexed. Successive autocratic regimes over the last three decades had given rise to endemic corruption, stunting the economy and limiting social mobility. An enormous diaspora now remains overseas, and on home turf, one third of the population is currently impoverished with 16% unemployed. Those with a job earn an average of £270 per month.

What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found in Armenia (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)

What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found at Armenia’s 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site.

All of which makes Armenia an unlikely candidate for The Economist magazine’s 2018 Country of the Year. That is until you look at the events of spring 2018, when the Velvet Revolution swept through towns and cities after former president Serzh Sargsyan tried to extend his decade in power.

The public, weary after years of administrative criminality, had finally had enough. Young activists mobilised, using social media to organise large-scale protests, bringing major roads and public realms to a standstill. Within weeks, the ruling Republican Party stepped down. Not a single shot was fired.

Elections in December 2018 then saw reformist acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was a key figure in the revolution, claim 70.4% of the vote. Many now believe major improvements are possible after seeing barriers between political class and population removed. As a symbolic gesture, the gates to the National Assembly and the prime minister and president’s offices were opened to the public in October to convey new governmental transparency.

In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption (Credit: Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/Getty Images)

In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption.

However, some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were inadvertently sowed in the intimate interiors that define many of Armenia’s new specialist drinking dens that stand on Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ thanks to the sheer number of establishments that have opened since In Vino arrived. A huge financial risk at that time – with some doubting such a small bar could turn a profit – six years on, In Vino is a firm fixture in the capital's nightlife scene.

The area caters to a new generation of drinkers, who prefer quality wines (domestic and imported), craft beers and spirits with traceable origins over the mass-produced vodka popularised during Soviet times – and a staple of more traditional haunts popular with the now-deposed political class. With the old regime disinterested, establishments such as In Vino became breeding grounds for progressive ideas. Frustrations, resentments and hopes were shared across tables, eventually boiling over into direct action.

“Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class,” said Vahe Baloulian, one of In Vino’s owners. “[In Vino] became one of those places where similar types of people would gather and exchange ideas. It didn’t happen because they started drinking wine, but wine usually attracts people who are better educated, more forward-looking.”

Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)

Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’.

Wine Street's dominant demographic – largely young, educated and employed but tired of the corruption in parliament – would not only support the revolution, but go on to produce the government of today.

“Right now, a lot of the people who are involved in the parliament are just like us, people who used to come to our wine bar regularly,” said Mariam Saghatelyan, one of Baloulian’s partners at In Vino. “They might not be very experienced in the field, they might not know that much about politics, but at least they have the same interests as me, and if I am against something they want to change, I can voice my opinion. I’m not afraid of them anymore.”

Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class

While these new wine bars and ideas might be progressive in today’s Armenia, gathering and exchanging thoughts over wine is firmly rooted in the country’s cultural heritage.

“Even if you read stories or historical points about our ancestors – my grandfather, their grandfathers – how they would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage,” Saghatelyan said.

Just as wine has been brought back to the fore by Armenians keen to see one of the country's oldest traditions thrive, the slow, relaxed atmosphere we associate with drinking reds, whites and roses has restored that tradition of addressing the day’s issues over a fine vintage.

“The whole wine itself is a story – the winemaker, where it was made, the history of the winery. People started to discuss things around the wine, then the next day you could see them coming together as a group,” Saghatelyan said. “A lot of problems were discussed, because wine makes conversations flow.”

Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage” (Credit: Credit: In Vino)

Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage”.

Domestic wine production has re-emerged in tandem with these new perspectives. Under the Soviet Union, Armenia was instructed to focus on brandies. Many of the red grape vines used to produce wines were removed to increase capacity for the white varieties brandy requires. Other red vineyards simply fell into disrepair as demand declined.

In the years after Soviet authority ended, however, a thirst to resurrect the lost wine industry grew alongside newfound freedoms promoting the recognition and celebration of Armenia's traditions that had been suppressed under communism. Output of Armenian wine has since exploded, as In Vino’s success demonstrates. When it opened, there were just 10 native varieties on sale; that number now stands at 85, with reds such as Areni and Kakhet and Voskehat whites particularly popular in the shop.

“Armenian winemakers of the recent generations showed that it’s possible to make good wine in Armenia. Because before that people were going for sweet wines which was all sugar and juice or foreign wines,” Baloulian explained. “So a lot of things like this made people believe what they were told was impossible was possible.”

After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)

After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew.

It may sound tenuous to suggest a link between that newfound belief in quality winemaking and the realisation that other forms of positive change could also happen. But there are parallels. Armenia’s new producers approach winemaking with hopes of competing globally. Meanwhile, the revolution began with demands for better prospects from a population tired of an economy that could not function properly on the international stage.

“Winemaking is not a new thing here, but the approach and the philosophy is,” explained Varuzhan Mouradian, who heads up the Van Ardi winery, one of Armenia’s growing number of award-winning, modern vineyards. “I think the consumer should follow and trace the wine back to starting from that bud break. She or he needs to feel that sun, and see how deep the roots went, how they were fighting the stones to collect different minerals.”

“The contrast compared to 15 years ago, or during Soviet times, was that wine was just considered an alcoholic beverage and produced as such,” said his daughter, Ani Mouradian, who explained how the last six years have been crucial to cementing the reputation of Armenian wine on the world circuit as producers started appearing at foreign trade shows. And confidence in the wine industry is growing.

There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination (Credit: Credit: Paul Carstairs/Alamy)

There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination.

The Van Ardi winery is building accommodation overlooking the vines, scheduled for completion in 2020. Elsewhere, in the most prominent wine region of Vayots Dzor, the country’s first wine route has been established. There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination, like neighbouring Georgia, bolstering a small but economically significant tourism economy in the coming years.

Whether Armenian wine really started the revolution is a matter of opinion, but its impact on a country in the throes of being reborn seems undeniable.

Born late-December 2012, In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. The cosy interior brims with hand-picked bottles; pungent cured meats and cheeses fill the deli counter; and passionate staff deliver a wealth of knowledge with every glass.

This scene would be familiar to most oenophiles, and is repeated in cities across the globe. So to understand the significance of this particular bar, some wider context about this corner of the Caucasus is needed.

In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan (Credit: Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)
In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in A

Born late-December 2012, In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. The cosy interior brims with hand-picked bottles; pungent cured meats and cheeses fill the deli counter; and passionate staff deliver a wealth of knowledge with every glass.

This scene would be familiar to most oenophiles, and is repeated in cities across the globe. So to understand the significance of this particular bar, some wider context about this corner of the Caucasus is needed.

In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan (Credit: Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)
In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan (Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)
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Armenia claims an enviable history. What are believed to be the oldest known traces of winemaking in the world have been found in the country’s south, at the 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site. Christianity first blossomed here. Literary, artistic, culinary and musical traditions pre-date many ancient civilisations. But modern times have been defined by struggle.

Ottoman occupation in the early-20th Century turned from oppression to mass killings, decimating the population and significantly shrinking borders in the process. Soviet rule, beginning in 1922, restricted opportunities and options – and independence in 1991 resulted in kleptocratic decisions where industrial assets were stripped with little investment to plug the gaps.

Additionally, territorial disputes became numerous. Borders with neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed, and swathes of land have been annexed. Successive autocratic regimes over the last three decades had given rise to endemic corruption, stunting the economy and limiting social mobility. An enormous diaspora now remains overseas, and on home turf, one third of the population is currently impoverished with 16% unemployed. Those with a job earn an average of £270 per month.

What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found in Armenia (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found at Armenia’s 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
All of which makes Armenia an unlikely candidate for The Economist magazine’s 2018 Country of the Year. That is until you look at the events of spring 2018, when the Velvet Revolution swept through towns and cities after former president Serzh Sargsyan tried to extend his decade in power.

The public, weary after years of administrative criminality, had finally had enough. Young activists mobilised, using social media to organise large-scale protests, bringing major roads and public realms to a standstill. Within weeks, the ruling Republican Party stepped down. Not a single shot was fired.

Elections in December 2018 then saw reformist acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was a key figure in the revolution, claim 70.4% of the vote. Many now believe major improvements are possible after seeing barriers between political class and population removed. As a symbolic gesture, the gates to the National Assembly and the prime minister and president’s offices were opened to the public in October to convey new governmental transparency.

In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption (Credit: Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/Getty Images)
In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption (Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/Getty Images)
However, some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were inadvertently sowed in the intimate interiors that define many of Armenia’s new specialist drinking dens that stand on Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ thanks to the sheer number of establishments that have opened since In Vino arrived. A huge financial risk at that time – with some doubting such a small bar could turn a profit – six years on, In Vino is a firm fixture in the capital's nightlife scene.

The area caters to a new generation of drinkers, who prefer quality wines (domestic and imported), craft beers and spirits with traceable origins over the mass-produced vodka popularised during Soviet times – and a staple of more traditional haunts popular with the now-deposed political class. With the old regime disinterested, establishments such as In Vino became breeding grounds for progressive ideas. Frustrations, resentments and hopes were shared across tables, eventually boiling over into direct action.

“Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class,” said Vahe Baloulian, one of In Vino’s owners. “[In Vino] became one of those places where similar types of people would gather and exchange ideas. It didn’t happen because they started drinking wine, but wine usually attracts people who are better educated, more forward-looking.”

Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
Wine Street's dominant demographic – largely young, educated and employed but tired of the corruption in parliament – would not only support the revolution, but go on to produce the government of today.

“Right now, a lot of the people who are involved in the parliament are just like us, people who used to come to our wine bar regularly,” said Mariam Saghatelyan, one of Baloulian’s partners at In Vino. “They might not be very experienced in the field, they might not know that much about politics, but at least they have the same interests as me, and if I am against something they want to change, I can voice my opinion. I’m not afraid of them anymore.”

Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class

While these new wine bars and ideas might be progressive in today’s Armenia, gathering and exchanging thoughts over wine is firmly rooted in the country’s cultural heritage.

“Even if you read stories or historical points about our ancestors – my grandfather, their grandfathers – how they would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage,” Saghatelyan said.

Just as wine has been brought back to the fore by Armenians keen to see one of the country's oldest traditions thrive, the slow, relaxed atmosphere we associate with drinking reds, whites and roses has restored that tradition of addressing the day’s issues over a fine vintage.

“The whole wine itself is a story – the winemaker, where it was made, the history of the winery. People started to discuss things around the wine, then the next day you could see them coming together as a group,” Saghatelyan said. “A lot of problems were discussed, because wine makes conversations flow.”

Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage” (Credit: Credit: In Vino)
Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage” (Credit: In Vino)
Domestic wine production has re-emerged in tandem with these new perspectives. Under the Soviet Union, Armenia was instructed to focus on brandies. Many of the red grape vines used to produce wines were removed to increase capacity for the white varieties brandy requires. Other red vineyards simply fell into disrepair as demand declined.

In the years after Soviet authority ended, however, a thirst to resurrect the lost wine industry grew alongside newfound freedoms promoting the recognition and celebration of Armenia's traditions that had been suppressed under communism. Output of Armenian wine has since exploded, as In Vino’s success demonstrates. When it opened, there were just 10 native varieties on sale; that number now stands at 85, with reds such as Areni and Kakhet and Voskehat whites particularly popular in the shop.

“Armenian winemakers of the recent generations showed that it’s possible to make good wine in Armenia. Because before that people were going for sweet wines which was all sugar and juice or foreign wines,” Baloulian explained. “So a lot of things like this made people believe what they were told was impossible was possible.”

After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
It may sound tenuous to suggest a link between that newfound belief in quality winemaking and the realisation that other forms of positive change could also happen. But there are parallels. Armenia’s new producers approach winemaking with hopes of competing globally. Meanwhile, the revolution began with demands for better prospects from a population tired of an economy that could not function properly on the international stage.

“Winemaking is not a new thing here, but the approach and the philosophy is,” explained Varuzhan Mouradian, who heads up the Van Ardi winery, one of Armenia’s growing number of award-winning, modern vineyards. “I think the consumer should follow and trace the wine back to starting from that bud break. She or he needs to feel that sun, and see how deep the roots went, how they were fighting the stones to collect different minerals.”

“The contrast compared to 15 years ago, or during Soviet times, was that wine was just considered an alcoholic beverage and produced as such,” said his daughter, Ani Mouradian, who explained how the last six years have been crucial to cementing the reputation of Armenian wine on the world circuit as producers started appearing at foreign trade shows. And confidence in the wine industry is growing.

There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination (Credit: Credit: Paul Carstairs/Alamy)
There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination (Credit: Paul Carstairs/Alamy)
The Van Ardi winery is building accommodation overlooking the vines, scheduled for completion in 2020. Elsewhere, in the most prominent wine region of Vayots Dzor, the country’s first wine route has been established. There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination, like neighbouring Georgia, bolstering a small but economically significant tourism economy in the coming years.

Whether Armenian wine really started the revolution is a matter of opinion, but its impact on a country in the throes of being reborn seems undeniable.

rmenia’s capital, Yerevan (Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)
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Armenia claims an enviable history. What are believed to be the oldest known traces of winemaking in the world have been found in the country’s south, at the 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site. Christianity first blossomed here. Literary, artistic, culinary and musical traditions pre-date many ancient civilisations. But modern times have been defined by struggle.

Ottoman occupation in the early-20th Century turned from oppression to mass killings, decimating the population and significantly shrinking borders in the process. Soviet rule, beginning in 1922, restricted opportunities and options – and independence in 1991 resulted in kleptocratic decisions where industrial assets were stripped with little investment to plug the gaps.

Additionally, territorial disputes became numerous. Borders with neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed, and swathes of land have been annexed. Successive autocratic regimes over the last three decades had given rise to endemic corruption, stunting the economy and limiting social mobility. An enormous diaspora now remains overseas, and on home turf, one third of the population is currently impoverished with 16% unemployed. Those with a job earn an average of £270 per month.

What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found in Armenia (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found at Armenia’s 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
All of which makes Armenia an unlikely candidate for The Economist magazine’s 2018 Country of the Year. That is until you look at the events of spring 2018, when the Velvet Revolution swept through towns and cities after former president Serzh Sargsyan tried to extend his decade in power.

The public, weary after years of administrative criminality, had finally had enough. Young activists mobilised, using social media to organise large-scale protests, bringing major roads and public realms to a standstill. Within weeks, the ruling Republican Party stepped down. Not a single shot was fired.

Elections in December 2018 then saw reformist acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was a key figure in the revolution, claim 70.4% of the vote. Many now believe major improvements are possible after seeing barriers between political class and population removed. As a symbolic gesture, the gates to the National Assembly and the prime minister and president’s offices were opened to the public in October to convey new governmental transparency.

In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption (Credit: Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/Getty Images)
In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption (Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/Getty Images)
However, some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were inadvertently sowed in the intimate interiors that define many of Armenia’s new specialist drinking dens that stand on Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ thanks to the sheer number of establishments that have opened since In Vino arrived. A huge financial risk at that time – with some doubting such a small bar could turn a profit – six years on, In Vino is a firm fixture in the capital's nightlife scene.

The area caters to a new generation of drinkers, who prefer quality wines (domestic and imported), craft beers and spirits with traceable origins over the mass-produced vodka popularised during Soviet times – and a staple of more traditional haunts popular with the now-deposed political class. With the old regime disinterested, establishments such as In Vino became breeding grounds for progressive ideas. Frustrations, resentments and hopes were shared across tables, eventually boiling over into direct action.

“Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class,” said Vahe Baloulian, one of In Vino’s owners. “[In Vino] became one of those places where similar types of people would gather and exchange ideas. It didn’t happen because they started drinking wine, but wine usually attracts people who are better educated, more forward-looking.”

Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
Wine Street's dominant demographic – largely young, educated and employed but tired of the corruption in parliament – would not only support the revolution, but go on to produce the government of today.

“Right now, a lot of the people who are involved in the parliament are just like us, people who used to come to our wine bar regularly,” said Mariam Saghatelyan, one of Baloulian’s partners at In Vino. “They might not be very experienced in the field, they might not know that much about politics, but at least they have the same interests as me, and if I am against something they want to change, I can voice my opinion. I’m not afraid of them anymore.”

Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class

While these new wine bars and ideas might be progressive in today’s Armenia, gathering and exchanging thoughts over wine is firmly rooted in the country’s cultural heritage.

“Even if you read stories or historical points about our ancestors – my grandfather, their grandfathers – how they would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage,” Saghatelyan said.

Just as wine has been brought back to the fore by Armenians keen to see one of the country's oldest traditions thrive, the slow, relaxed atmosphere we associate with drinking reds, whites and roses has restored that tradition of addressing the day’s issues over a fine vintage.

“The whole wine itself is a story – the winemaker, where it was made, the history of the winery. People started to discuss things around the wine, then the next day you could see them coming together as a group,” Saghatelyan said. “A lot of problems were discussed, because wine makes conversations flow.”

Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage” (Credit: Credit: In Vino)
Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage” (Credit: In Vino)
Domestic wine production has re-emerged in tandem with these new perspectives. Under the Soviet Union, Armenia was instructed to focus on brandies. Many of the red grape vines used to produce wines were removed to increase capacity for the white varieties brandy requires. Other red vineyards simply fell into disrepair as demand declined.

In the years after Soviet authority ended, however, a thirst to resurrect the lost wine industry grew alongside newfound freedoms promoting the recognition and celebration of Armenia's traditions that had been suppressed under communism. Output of Armenian wine has since exploded, as In Vino’s success demonstrates. When it opened, there were just 10 native varieties on sale; that number now stands at 85, with reds such as Areni and Kakhet and Voskehat whites particularly popular in the shop.

“Armenian winemakers of the recent generations showed that it’s possible to make good wine in Armenia. Because before that people were going for sweet wines which was all sugar and juice or foreign wines,” Baloulian explained. “So a lot of things like this made people believe what they were told was impossible was possible.”

After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
It may sound tenuous to suggest a link between that newfound belief in quality winemaking and the realisation that other forms of positive change could also happen. But there are parallels. Armenia’s new producers approach winemaking with hopes of competing globally. Meanwhile, the revolution began with demands for better prospects from a population tired of an economy that could not function properly on the international stage.

“Winemaking is not a new thing here, but the approach and the philosophy is,” explained Varuzhan Mouradian, who heads up the Van Ardi winery, one of Armenia’s growing number of award-winning, modern vineyards. “I think the consumer should follow and trace the wine back to starting from that bud break. She or he needs to feel that sun, and see how deep the roots went, how they were fighting the stones to collect different minerals.”

“The contrast compared to 15 years ago, or during Soviet times, was that wine was just considered an alcoholic beverage and produced as such,” said his daughter, Ani Mouradian, who explained how the last six years have been crucial to cementing the reputation of Armenian wine on the world circuit as producers started appearing at foreign trade shows. And confidence in the wine industry is growing.

There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination (Credit: Credit: Paul Carstairs/Alamy)
There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination (Credit: Paul Carstairs/Alamy)
The Van Ardi winery is building accommodation overlooking the vines, scheduled for completion in 2020. Elsewhere, in the most prominent wine region of Vayots Dzor, the country’s first wine route has been established. There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination, like neighbouring Georgia, bolstering a small but economically significant tourism economy in the coming years.

Whether Armenian wine really started the revolution is a matter of opinion, but its impact on a country in the throes of being reborn seems undeniable.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20190129-did-wine-cause-a-full-scale-revolution-in-armenia

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US firms seek changes to UK standards on beef and drugs

US lobby groups for agriculture and pharmaceutical firms want UK standards to be changed to match those of the US in post-Brexit trade deals.

They want the sale of growth hormone-fed beef, currently banned in the UK and EU, to be allowed in the UK.

The groups are also seeking changes to the NHS drugs approval process to allow it to buy a wider range of US drugs.

They are also asking US officials - who will hold a hearing later - to seek lower tariffs on agricultural goods.

The lobby groups say any deal should move away from EU standards, including rules governing genetically modified crops, antibiotics in meats, and pesticides, such as glyphosate.

If this does not happen, they say they will not back a US-UK trade deal.

Technology groups are also setting out their wishlists for any pact. Companies in this sector are against the UK's proposed digital tax.

The UK government has promised to look at ways of taxing US technology giants, such as Amazon and Google, who critics say do not pay their fair share of tax in the UK and therefore operate at an unfair advantage to physical companies.

'Once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity

The lobby groups' priorities were outlined in more than 130 comments submitted to the office of the US Trade Representative.

The office solicited the feedback to help develop US goals as it prepares to start trade talks with the UK after Brexit.

US companies - especially in the agricultural sector - said they hoped the UK would prove more flexible than the EU.

UK negotiations could represent "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity", the National Grain and Feed Association and North American Export Grain Association wrote.

The groups said a new deal could create a trans-Atlantic market "that can act as a bastion against the EU's precautionary advances and its ongoing aggressive attempts to spread its influence around the globe".

Hogs are raised on the farm of Gordon and Jeanine Lockie April 28, 2009 in Elma, Iowa

Image captionUS agricultural groups have long complained about EU rules

Here is a summary of goals for key sectors:

Agriculture

US business groups from the agricultural sector have been among the most vocal, amounting to nearly a third of all comments.

The groups, which as well as meat, drug and technology firms include producers of olive oil, wine, nuts, fruit, and dairy products, say they want to see the UK reduce tariffs on food products., They also want to limit geographic labelling rules, such as those that bar US companies from using terms such as Prosecco.

The Animal Health Institute, which produces animal antibiotics, was among the groups that said it would not support any deal that did not address demands by the US agricultural sector.

"We have noted with concern statements by certain UK officials indicating a desire to exclude the agricultural sector from the negotiation and an intention of maintaining regulatory harmonization with the European Union," it said.

"Should the UK adopt such policies, we see little basis for the negotiation of a bilateral trade agreement."

Health

The pharmaceutical industry is also gearing up for negotiations to start.

PhRMA, which represents drug makers in the US such as AbbVie Merck and Novartis, said it wanted a deal to address the barriers to access it currently faces in the UK, pointing to items such as government price controls.

It heavily criticised the current NHS drug approval system, pointing to the cap on the price of drugs as too restrictive, and highlighting insufficient healthcare budgets and "rigid" national processes.

The organisation, as well as some other groups, are also hoping to secure patent protections for certain types of drugs for at least 12 years, among other demands.

Technology

There is also widespread support to push the UK raise the amount that triggers customs duties from £135 closer to the US level of $800 - more than £600.

Such a move would make it easier for small businesses to export to the UK, companies - including the e-commerce site Etsy - said.

Many of the demands in the tech sector also surfaced during negotiations of the trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47036119

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Child poverty in Britain is already a problem — and Brexit will likely make it worse

"For almost one in every two children to be poor in 21st century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster."

Image: The former Victorian industrial town of Oldham has the worst child deprivation rate in the UK, and has been hard hit by the governments' austerity measures over the past seven years

The town of Oldham, about 7 miles northeast of Manchester, has been hit hard by the U.K. government's austerity measures.Susannah Ireland / for NBC News

Dec. 21, 2018 / 10:16 AM GMT / Updated Dec. 21, 2018 / 2:12 PM GMT

By Saphora Smith

OLDHAM, England — When things got really bad, Lara Butterworth would work six days a week and skip meals to ensure that her son had enough to eat.

But even that wasn't enough. Butterworth, 29, was forced to rely on handouts from the food bank before moving back to her mother’s house where she now shares a bunk bed with her teenage sister.

Her inability to succeed was not for lack of trying. “I was doing the best I could,” said Butterworth, whose son, Tyler, is 6.

"Even if I can’t give Tyler everything he wants, I make sure he knows he’s got everything he needs,” she added. “He’s loved and cared for.”

Image: Lara Butterworth

Lara Butterworth has only just paid off her credit card bill from last Christmas as this year's holiday approaches. Susannah Ireland / for NBC News

The U.K. boasts the world's fifth-largest economy, but almost one in three of the country's children are growing up in poverty, according to the independent Social Metrics Commission.

And things are getting worse. The Institute for Fiscal Studies believes that child poverty could reach almost 37 percent by 2022.

Such warnings come as Britain's prepares to leave the European Union on March 29, which the Bank of England has said could shrink the economy by as much as 8 percent in about a year.

Brexit means the U.K. will also lose billions in E.U. funding, which has greatly benefited the country's most deprived areas.

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The U.N. last month criticized the British government for continuing austerity measures imposed in the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis.

"Various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40 percent," Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty, wrote in a 24-page report on the effect such policies have had in the U.K. "For almost one in every two children to be poor in 21st century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster.”

Alston also dismissed the government’s theory that work is the solution to poverty, highlighting that 60 percent of those below the breadline come from families with at least one member being employed.

The government has admitted that the country would be poorer under any form of Brexit, and many fear that people like Butterworth who are struggling to make ends meet now will be disproportionately affected.

The statistics are staggering.

  • Food bank use in the U.K. has increased fourfold since 2012. There are now around 2,000 food banks across the country, compared to just 29 at the height of the financial crisis.
  • The fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit referendum in June 2016 had already increased the cost of living for people in poverty by around £400 ($506) per year, the U.N. report said.
  • An average of 36 people have become homeless every day in the past year in Britain, according to the charity Shelter.
  • The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a research and development charity, warns that if the government does not sufficiently increase benefit payments to account for post-Brexit inflation, up to 900,000 more people could fall into poverty.
  • The U.N. report also notes that the U.K. government does not have an official method for measuring poverty.

“British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited and often callous approach” by the government toward those at the lowest levels of society, Alston added.

Discount stores and derelict buildings

Just outside the city of Manchester, the old cotton-mill town of Oldham has been hit hard by industrial decline and then years of austerity.

With a population of 225,000, it is peppered with discount stores and derelict buildings.

Oldham’s municipal government has vowed to fight back and the town center's first new movie theater in three decades opened its doors in 2016 as part of a $46.1 million regeneration project.

More than 40 percent of children living here grow up in poverty, according to the End Child Poverty coalition of charities. It classifies such households as those with incomes of less than 60 percent of the national median after housing costs — or $321 per week.

In the Oldham neighborhood of Coldhurst, 62 percent of children live below the breadline — the highest rate of child poverty in the U.K.

Image: Oldham food bank

The Oldham food bank offers everything from tinned and fresh food to toiletries and toys for children. Susannah Ireland / for NBC News

Many in Oldham said high levels of deprivation were key to why 60 percent of people living here voted to leave the E.U. in the 2016 Brexit referendum — well above the 52 percent national figure.

But few of those who spoke to NBC News said they expected the looming divorce to make life easier.

“A lot of people didn’t see things getting better for them anytime soon and they saw an opportunity to protest against that, to kick the people who they felt were responsible,” said Sean Fielding, who is leader of the town council.

The council itself has felt the sting of spending cuts. Since 2010, its budget has shrunk by $262 million — the equivalent of 42 percent of its funding — due to cuts in grants from the U.K. government. That makes it the sixth hardest-hit place in the country due to austerity, according to a recent study by the University of Cambridge.

And over the past 20 years, the Oldham Council has received more than $126 million in funding from the European Union, which helped projects including a tram system linking the town to nearby Manchester. It is not yet clear how much of the money Oldham can count on being replaced by the U.K. government after Brexit.

With public services debilitated by cuts, residents here increasingly rely on charities to plug the gaps in support. Oldham’s patchwork of food banks, social enterprises and not-for-profits is testament to the strong community spirit that flows through the hilly town.

Image: Free bread in Oldham, England

Community social enterprise ifOldham leaves free bread for passersby outside their offices.Susannah Ireland / for NBC News

Inside the old pubs, chapels and community halls that have been transformed into food banks and support centers, many people point to relationship breakdowns, personal accidents and sickness as the beginning of their downward spiral.

But they said it was also a series of changes to the welfare system over the past eight years that had left them without a safety net.

Last year, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government introduced a two-child limit for benefits saying it would no longer pay additional welfare payments for a third or subsequent child born after April 5, 2017.

“I think politicians really need to spend a week at a food bank and see what comes in or to live a week in the lives of some of the families we have, to see how poor they are.”

But many also blame the design and roll out of a divisive new welfare program known as Universal Credit for pushing them into debt, leaving them with little or no financial support and driving them through the doors of food banks.

The government claims its redesign of social security “makes work pay” and “guarantees you will always be better off in work than on benefits.”

But the Child Poverty Action Group, a charity that works to abolish child poverty in the U.K., said those policies have driven 1.5 million more children below the poverty line.

The poverty trap

Butterworth, the single mother, blames her most recent difficulties on her transition to Universal Credit, which she said caused her benefits to be cut off twice in the past year because of administrative errors.

To save on funds last winter, she stopped taking the bus and started walking Tyler the 45-minute journey to school through rain or snow.

Image: Oldham food bank

Many Oldham residents said the food bank offered them a safe space and a support network as well as place to get food. Susannah Ireland / for NBC News

It was only when she was pulled aside to talk about his poor school attendance record that she was directed to the Oldham food bank.

After losing her job because of stress, and moving back in with her mother, Butterworth last month found a new role supporting young people with learning difficulties. Her income was $1,510 in November, but she says she will make less this month and is afraid that as a contractor her work will run dry by late spring.

Because of her new salary, she was only entitled to $99 in top-up welfare payments for December.

With no secure job prospects and not enough money for first and last months' rent on an apartment, Butterworth has little chance of leaving her mother's home — and the bunk bed — without help anytime soon.

With Christmas looming, she accepted a hamper of gifts for Tyler from the food bank.

Butterworth’s story mirrors a national pattern, with changes to the benefit system hitting single-parent households particularly hard.

Image: Danielle Ingham and her 5-year-old daughter Amelia

Single mother Danielle Ingham, 28, does spelling tests with her 5-year-old daughter Amelia at their home in Oldham. While she no longer uses the food bank, she has started attending a service called Bread and Butter which offers three bags of food for $8.85. “I’d rather do that because I feel like I’m paying my way,” said Ingham, who earns $10.12 an hour as a cleaner. She works up to 20 hours per week to support Amelia and son Alfie, 3. Susannah Ireland / for NBC News

This year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission predicted that benefit and tax reforms since 2010 would see poverty rates for children in single-parent households jump from 37 percent to 62 percent by 2021-22 in England, Wales and Scotland.

While the government points to record employment rates — with only 4.1 percent of the population out of work — the U.N.'s Alston said low wages, insecure work and casual contracts with no guaranteed hours meant millions of Britons were stuck in poverty.

Desperation

With family to fall back on, Butterworth is better off than many who come to Oldham’s food bank.

Lisa Leunig, who manages the bank's day-to-day running, said she saw many people come in desperate and alone.

“I think politicians really need to spend a week at a food bank and see what comes in or to live a week in the lives of some of the families we have, to see how poor they are,” she said.

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Leunig, 52, said she voted for Brexit to have a better standard of living and to stop what she described as high levels of immigration to a country that was already struggling to cope with the numbers of those in need.

Founded in 2011, Oldham’s food bank helped 35 people that first year, she said. By early December, the center had helped more than 7,000 people.

“I just want a better country to live in,” she said, adding that it was “disgusting” that people have nowhere else to go.

Image: Lisa Leunig

Lisa Leunig says each year more and more people are turning up to the Oldham food bank, which is located in what was once the Three Crowns pub. Susannah Ireland / for NBC News

But despite her vote she's not convinced leaving the European Union will change much, and if it does she expects it to take a “very long time.”

Like many in Oldham, austerity has left Leunig disillusioned. Many of those who spoke to NBC News said they had fallen through the gaps too many times to believe there was a safety net.

The Rev. Bob Pounder, who co-runs a food aid hub at the Oldham Unitarian Chapel, said cuts by successive governments had created a situation where it feels like "it’s everyone for themselves" and where "the rich get rich and the poor get poorer."

The U.N.'s Alston said the government had made "no secret" of its determination to change the value system to focus more on individual responsibility.

The ruling Conservative Party has traditionally been a strong proponent of a small state with former Prime Minister Margret Thatcher famously declaring that "there is no such thing as society," as she advocated that citizens should do more to look after themselves before turning to the government.

More than two decades later, then-Prime Minister David Cameron introduced the idea of the "Big Society" which envisioned that people would not always turn to officials and local government when they faced problems but would instead feel "powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities."

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Responding to last month's U.N. report, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd — who is responsible for welfare reform — said the "extraordinary political nature" of Alston's language "discredited a lot of what he was saying."

But Fielding, the leader of Oldham Council, said it should not be necessary for community groups and charities to do the government’s job.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that people are being driven into poverty as a result of decisions being made by the government,” he said.

Image: Sean Fielding

Sean Fielding is the leader of Oldham Council and a member of the opposition Labour Party.Susannah Ireland / for NBC News

Fielding said he was concerned Brexit would only make things more difficult. Uncertainty over what Britain's future relationship with Europe will look like has also affected Fielding’s ability to plan.

When NBC News visited Oldham in early December, the U.K. government had still not finalized the town’s budget beyond 2020.

“We know that we have to take £17 million ($21.5 million) out next year and another £15 million ($18.9 million) the following year, and beyond that who knows,” Fielding said.

'The kids are freezing at night'

Sharon, an out-of-work single mom, admits she didn’t even vote in the Brexit referendum.

“I didn’t see the point — they do nothing for you, do they?” she said, having returned home with bags from the food bank.

Since having an emergency cesarean section last month, the mother of five has been unable to work and has relied entirely on welfare benefits. (Her two oldest children live with their father.)

Sharon, 42, says she does not have the money to even heat her house, though she allows her two daughters to switch on an electric heater for 10 minutes at a time to keep warm.

Image: Sharon and Crystal

Sharon says it saddens her that she cannot afford to buy the toys that her daughter, Crystal, sees on television for Christmas. Susannah Ireland / for NBC News

The water heater and washing machine at her small terraced house on the outskirts of Oldham were both broken.

“It’s a joke, to be honest,” said Sharon, who did not want to give her last name for fear of being identified by an abusive former partner. “The kids are freezing at night, it’s horrible.”

Sharon’s youngest son Levi was born four weeks premature and was in intensive care when NBC News visited in early December.

“Look how tiny he is,” she said gesturing toward a picture of Levi, only a few weeks old, hooked up to numerous wires. "He is not going to be able to cope in my house without heating."

After paying bills and $503 in rent, she said she currently lives off $88 a week in benefits, which she uses to feed herself and her two daughters, as well as paying for school trips and Christmas presents.

To make ends meet she uses food banks to get essentials like milk, rice and pasta but says she feels ashamed to not be able to stand on her own two feet.

“It feels like scrounging," Sharon said. "You want to provide for your own kids."

Saphora Smith

Saphora Smith is a London-based reporter for NBC News Digital. 

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The uniquely spanish part of the meal

Spain is a country in love with food, renowned for everything from tapas to trailblazing chefs to simple, elegant recipes that have endured for generations. So it may seem counterintuitive, perhaps even heretical, to say that the most important thing about a Spanish lunch is not the food. But it’s true.

Before you spill your gazpacho, let me say that Spanish people don’t take the food part of lunch lightly; far from it. As a Spaniard in love with food in general, and lunch in particular, I for one approach the subject of where to eat with the same level of thought and research that some people put into buying a new car. Of course, I want to know whether the food is good – but I also want to know whether it’s going to be a comfortable place to spend a few hours. Steady yourselves foodies; but in Spain the purpose of going out for lunch isn’t just eating, it’s catching up with friends or family, telling stories and laughing away the stress caused by things that, with a little perspective, you come to realise don’t matter anyway. If all you want is food, you might as well stay at home and order in.

In Spain, the purpose of going out for lunch is catching up with friends or family (Credit: Credit: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images)

In Spain, the purpose of going out for lunch is catching up with friends or family.

Food matters a lot in Spain, but the social aspect of it matters even more. Lunch, for example, doesn’t end when people can’t eat another bite. That’s when the sobremesa starts. There is no equivalent word in English, though the concept is simple: sobremesa is the time you spend at the table after you’ve finished eating. Usually, there’s laughter involved, and almost always the kind of easy, convivial conversation that only the pleasures of a big meal can inspire.

The sobremesa can be magical

“On a personal level, the sobremesa is fundamental,” said Dani Carnero, chef at La Cosmopolita in Málaga, where Spain’s best chefs, including Ferran Adrià, Joan Roca, José Andrés and Andoni Luis Aduriz, go to eat when they’re in town.

“As a chef, when I see people spending time at the table after lunch, I feel that it’s a sign that everything has gone well, but oftentimes people enjoy themselves even more than during the meal itself. The sobremesa can be magical.”

Sobremesa is the time you spend at the table after you’ve finished eating (Credit: Credit: Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)

Sobremesa is the time you spend at the table after you’ve finished eating (Credit: Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)

When I moved to Madrid from Zaragoza, I got in touch with Ben Curtis, a British blogger who has lived in Spain for 20 years and has probably taught more people about Spanish customs than anyone else. We’d been emailing about things related to Spanish culture for some time, but we’d never met, so I suggested we go out for a beer. He wisely suggested we go out for lunch instead. It went so well that we’ve been having lunch more or less once a week for the past six years. And by lunch I don’t mean a sandwich at a food court or a fast-food burger, but a proper sit-down, three-course Spanish lunch. With wine, naturally. If there’s a better way to form a friendship than having long lunches on a regular basis, I’d like to know about it.

In my experience, avant-garde food doesn’t lend itself to a good sobremesa because too much attention gets devoted to the food itself. That’s why I prefer classic, unpretentious casas de comida, or family restaurants, where the food is home-style, made from well-cooked, simple ingredients. I know Ben feels the same way because we have often explored this important subject in leisurely chats after robust meals, the white tablecloth sprinkled with breadcrumbs and splotched with red-wine stains. My informal research suggests that the better the food, the better the sobremesa; but tellingly, you can eat mediocre food and still have a great lunch if you’re with the right company.

Sobremesa is about prolonging the lunch because you’ve had such a good time you don’t want it to end (Credit: Credit: Molly Aaker/Getty Images)

Sobremesa is about prolonging the lunch because you’ve had such a good time you don’t want it to end.

There are only a few guidelines to sobremesa. Most important is that nobody gets up from the table ­– urgent necessities excluded, of course. You have to stay at the table where you ate, amid the post-lunch wreckage of crumpled napkins, stray packets of sugar and the last pieces of dessert that may or may not get eaten. Sobremesa is about prolonging the lunch because you’ve had such a good time that you don’t want it to end; if you leave the table, the spell is broken.

If you leave the table, the spell is broken

The warm atmosphere of the sobremesa can often lead to conversations that you might not have otherwise, the ones that start like, “You’ve inspired me to…” or “I’ve been wanting to say how much it means to me that you…”. But it’s also the natural habitat of the comedian. Jokes never land better than when the listener is well fed and, ideally, a little bit tipsy. All you have to do is say something remotely funny, and even if you mess it up you’ll likely still get a laugh. Actually, especially if you mess it up. My mother has a habit of telling jokes and erupting into infectious, uncontainable laughter long before she gets to the punchline. The jokes aren’t always that funny, but her delivery absolutely kills every time.

The sobremesa often lasts as long as the meal itself – sometimes, if it’s going well, even longer. I was born in the south of Spain, where the blazing hot summers encourage particularly epic sobremesas. Going outside would be madness, so it’s best to stay put. In my family’s luncheon lore, my favourite story is about a lunch my father once had with a good friend where the sobremesa lasted so long they eventually got hungry again and stayed for dinner. I have yet to achieve the lunch-dinner double, a feat that I like to call the Legendary Enchainment, but one day, one day.

Dani Carnero: “Oftentimes people enjoy themselves even more than during the meal itself” (Credit: Credit: Daniel Hernanz Ramos/Getty Images)

Dani Carnero: “Oftentimes people enjoy themselves even more than during the meal itself”.

Of course, the all-day lunch is not an everyday occurrence. The long sobremesa is a fixture on occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries and Sundays with the family. But even during the week, many people still take the time to have a big lunch, and when it’s finished nobody is in too much of a hurry to leave. While it’s not unheard of to have a sobremesa after dinner, it’s more of an afternoon event. They say that having a big lunch instead of a big dinner is healthier, but that’s probably just a happy coincidence. Lunch is just more fun.

I like a big lunch so much that, even when I don’t have the time for it, I like seeing people having a big lunch. I’ll be on some mundane errand and turn the corner and glance through the window of a neighbourhood restaurant, and there’s a table of four older ladies, laughing and gossiping as a waiter in a bow tie serves them their decaf coffees. Sometimes, especially on a holiday, you’ll see a table of 15 or 20 men, raucous and into their second round of sobremesa gin and tonics, singing songs and generally being too loud, but having such a good time you can’t help but smile. Children have pretty much free reign during the sobremesa since the parents are enjoying themselves too much to do any effective policing. It’s a win-win for all concerned.

You could look at lunch in Spain as just an excuse for a sobremesa. As excuses go, it’s a pretty good one. The food is almost always superb, which is, when you think about it, a nice bonus.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180424-a-uniquely-spanish-part-of-the-meal

 

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Tasty Tradition of Taiwan's midnight meal

It was dark and sopping wet at the Ningxia Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan. Yet even as the rain continued to seep into my socks, the narrow alleys were still jam-packed with people, elbow to elbow.

All we do is eat

They were jostling to place their order at Li Zhang Bo, a small stinky tofu stall run by Yiwen Wang and Qirong Li, Taiwan’s self-described queen and king of stink. Their signature dish – deep-fried fermented tofu on a bed of pickled vegetables – would make even the most pungent locker room smell like roses. But still, the line of loyal customers threaded around the block, stretching as far as the nose-wrinkling odour wafted into the world beyond. The secret to their success? Here, in Taiwan, it is “socially acceptable” to go hunting for stinky tofu in the middle of the night, said Wang.

Welcome to a foodie’s final resting place.

Stinky tofu is a popular option for ‘xiaoye’, or the midnight snack, in Taiwan (Credit: Credit: Boaz Rottem/Alamy)

Stinky tofu is a popular option for ‘xiaoye’, or the midnight snack, in Taiwan.

While most countries only have three meals a day, Taiwan worships food so much that there's a fourth and final meal: the midnight snack, or xiaoye in ChineseThat means while most of the world is winding down after dinner and getting ready for bed, the wakeful people of Taiwan are gearing up for their late-night ritual – which is, bluntly put, to hit the open streets and nosh until their jeans are ripping at the seams. “All we do is eat,” Wang said.

Taiwan treats ‘snack time’ seriously. No need to hit the clubs; rather, Taiwan’s loud, messy nightlife heaves and breathes inside overflowing night markets; beer houses sizzling with stir-fried foods; and all-you-can-eat karaoke lounges. Taiwan’s family-run midnight snack stands don’t feature endless menus, though. Instead, they focus on mastering one signature item and serve that dish over and over again – ensuring ‘perfection’ every time, according to Li.

The flavours of good food come from the cook's heartfelt persistence

“Behind every night market snack is also the diligence of the cook and the preservation of continued traditions passed on from each generation. It can be said that the flavours of good food come from the cook's heartfelt persistence,” Li said, himself a third-generation midnight snack-stand owner.

Imagine freshly pressed sugarcane nectar, sizzling oyster pancakes, blow-torched steak, honey-sweet pearl milk tea and comically fat pork sausages – all cooked in the open and right in front of drooling customers for their viewing pleasure. With the nation’s historical and colonial Dutch, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese culinary influences, the sheer variety of late-night grub one can find in Taiwan is enough to hopscotch across continents. Not to mention, millions of post-Chinese civil war immigrants brought regional dishes from nearly every province in China in 1949.

Taiwan is perennially full of middle-of-the-night snacks to munch on, long after the sun has slipped beneath the horizon and well into the ungodly hours of the morning. So, if New York is the city that never sleeps, then Taiwan must be the island that never gets full.

Nightlife in Taiwan centres around night markets, where locals gather until the early morning hours to eat (Credit: Credit: Stockinasia/Alamy)

Nightlife in Taiwan centres around night markets, where locals gather until the early morning hours to eat.

There are a few factors that compel the country’s hungry night owls to prowl the streets for food, said National Taiwan Normal University associate professor Yu-Jen Chen, who has the enviable job of researching the culture and history of cuisine in Taiwan. She explained that the word ‘xiaoye’ first appeared during the Tang Dynasty in the 9th Century to poetically describe the act of drinking wine to ‘kill’ the night, But the expression has taken on a whole new life and meaning since then. As the 1950s rolled in, Taiwan’s xiaoye scene evolved into a booming underground economy where merchants would informally get together and sell their wares and late-night food. “People took advantage of this thriving night-time economy to make more money and improve their lot in life,” Chen said.

Nowadays, the business of midnight snacking has turned into a more formal affair and an ingrained part of Taiwan’s mainstream culture. From the mass of 24-hour convenience stores to the constant clamour of scooters at all hours of the night, Taiwan is a sleepless society that’s been gradually shifting towards later hours over the years. According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor, people work long hours that rival Japan’s and Korea’s record-long working days, averaging just under 170 hours per month in Taiwan, and young students often study well past 20:00 in cram schools (after-school tutoring centres).

For outsiders though, the restless and breathless culture of xiaoye is an off-script introduction to Taiwan's culinary scene, according to Chen. “If I were to describe Taiwan’s night markets, I would say renao,” she said. 

Taiwan’s Dutch, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese culinary influences have led to a wide variety of late-night meal options (Credit: Credit: Danita Delimont/Alamy)

Taiwan’s historical and colonial Dutch, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese culinary influences have led to a wide variety of late-night meal options.

Renao, the untranslatable ‘hot and noisy’ aspect of life in Taiwan that is cherished by many, is a strongly rooted social phenomenon that resonates deep within Taiwan’s tight-knit community, according to a 2008 study from the Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics. The idea behind renao, which is used to describe a lively place that’s fizzling with excitement, is a holy grail of strong smells, bright lights and an endorphin-fuelled sense of social belonging that surges with big crowds. The idea is not unlike the feeling of lining up for the latest iPhone on Black Friday in the US. That same heightened collective sense of renao is what people feel when they take part in Taiwan’s traditional communal values, such as family or religion, according to the study.

That’s why most, if not all, night markets and late-night eats in Taiwan are centred around temples, Chen explained. After worship, people will often gather and eat their hearts out as a community. It's why even the smallest villages of Taiwan have bustling night markets. Plus, renao has long been expressed in ancient Chinese history to positively convey full-of-life activities like parties, festivals and large gatherings, where the crowd is so thick that there isn’t even a breeze to feel.

“People go out not just because of the food, but because the food also creates a lively, one-of-a-kind atmosphere,” said Leslie Liu, a popular Taipei food blogger.

Locals are also drawn to Taiwan’s night markets for their buzzing atmosphere (Credit: Credit: Images By Kenny/Alamy)

Locals are also drawn to Taiwan’s night markets for their buzzing atmosphere, which is often described as ‘renao’, or ‘hot and noisy’.

Back at Li Zhang Bo, stinky tofu stall owner Li was like a walking exclamation mark. It was 23:00 but he showed no sign of slowing down. Neither did the line of people streaming out the door. Li was chatting the ears off waiting customers who have graced his tables over the decades. “It’s amazing,” said first-time customer Bu-Luo Hsin as she nibbled on the crispy, craggy, deep-fried tofu skin, describing it as melt-in-your-mouth “tender” on the inside and “crunchy and savoury” on the outside.

In Taiwan, there is no such thing as a full belly

The Li Zhang Bo stall is one of storied stinky tofu fame, with the restaurant owned and managed by the same family for three generations. It’s also what Hsin affectionately described to me as a ‘fly restaurant’ – the outside is bare bones, but what the eatery lacks in décor it makes up for in flavour that’s so irresistible that patrons buzz in like flies every evening.

Nightfall is no limiting factor here. After all, in Taiwan, there is no such thing as a full belly.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20181212-the-tasty-tradition-of-taiwans-midnight-meals

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Why your pizza may never be delivered by drone

For years tech companies such as Amazon, Alphabet and Uber have promised us delivery drones bringing goods to our doorsteps in a matter of minutes. So why are they taking so long to arrive?

One word: regulation.

If our skies are to become as crowded as our streets, airspace rules need updating to prevent accidents, terrorist attacks, and related problems, such as noise pollution.

But that's easier said than done. Here's a rundown of the main issues.

Noisy nuisances?

According to a recent study by Nasa, the noise made by road traffic was "systematically judged to be less annoying" than the high-pitched buzzing made by drones.

The locals in the Australian suburb of Bonython, Canberra thought much the same thing when Wing, Google owner Alphabet's delivery drone service, began fast-food delivery trials there.

"With the windows closed, even with double glazing, you can hear the drones," one local resident told ABC News.

Banned drones poster

Consequently, limiting noise pollution is an important consideration for regulators, many of whom have forbidden drone deliveries after dark - precisely the time many hungry householders would like that takeaway meal delivered.

"Noise pollution has been an area of debate during the drafting of the new European rules," says Yves Morier of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Rogue drones

Even with relatively few drones in the skies, the number of potentially dangerous incidents is worryingly high.

Just last month, a "rogue" drone closed Wellington Airport in New Zealand, while a UK drone user was charged with endangering lives by flying too close to a police helicopter.

And Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says he was recently the target of a drone "attack".

Regulators are trying to take back control by implementing registration schemes.

Media captionDrone endangered police helicopter in Cambridgeshire

"The vision is unified traffic management, digitalised, on all levels, from local to national and international," Benoît Curdy, secretary general of the Global Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management Association (GUTMA), said in September.

"Registration is the first step, as it enables the authorities to know who is flying."

European regulators are equally concerned.

"Rogue drone use is a major concern for us," says the EASA's Mr Morier.

"We cannot reduce the risk to zero, but we can take steps to limit it. These include making registration obligatory for drones weighing more than 250g."

Are they safe?

Delivery drones will fall rapidly out of favour it they fall rapidly from the sky after running out of juice or crashing.In October, West Midlands Police reported a defect in its DJI Matrice 200 surveillance drone to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority. The drone experienced a sudden loss of power even when it had battery charge remaining.

Wing drone letting down a package

"The biggest challenge is to reduce the risk of collisions between drones and other aircraft," says Mr Morier.

Wing says it has performed "tens of thousands of test flights" in the US and Australia, and is heading to Finland next year.

Its drones use "redundant motors, batteries and navigation systems with intelligent controls, so back-up systems can help keep aircraft safely in flight", the company says.

But Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights - where drones travel autonomously or are controlled by pilots remotely - are only likely to become viable once "detect and avoid" technology has been approved by regulators.

"Nasa has successfully built and flown a system this year," the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says. "But no 'detect and avoid' systems have received approval as yet."

It's a point reiterated by European regulators.

"There is no 'detect and avoid' technology capable of ensuring [that drones don't collide with other aircraft] at the moment," says Mr Morier.

For this reason it has stipulated that non-commercial drones cannot fly above 120m (394ft), although who polices this is another issue.

Lack of standards

Most countries now have - or will soon have - rules in place for small drones capable of carrying out surveillance or making deliveries. And bigger sky taxis are also in development.

"Some companies are already testing full-scale prototype pilotless air-vehicles," says the FAA. "The fast pace of change is fundamentally changing the role of the regulator."

But the rules on how and where you can fly drones differ widely from country to country.

In the US, the FAA rules state that delivery-style drones must weigh less than 55lbs (25kg) in total and fly up to only 400ft (123m).

Susanne Schodel

In Saudi Arabia, all drones are banned.

While more than 50 countries belong to Joint Authorities for Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems (JARUS), a final set of standards has yet to be agreed.

Susanne Schödel, secretary general of FAI, the World Air Sports Federation, says: "Authorities are working on this on a global scale, but integrating drones into the airspace is a very complex undertaking."

One widely accepted standard is that drones will, initially at least, operate only in lower airspace, leaving the higher airspace free for commercial aircraft.

Where are we now?

First developed for military use during World War One, drones are now a global industry that investment bank Goldman Sachs expects to be worth $100bn (£79bn) by 2020.

Their commercial potential is already being exploited in many parts of the world, albeit on a trial basis.

In Switzerland, the national postal service Swiss Post has started using drones to ferry laboratory samples between hospitals in Lugano and Bern.

Drone sits on beach if front of a speed boat

In China, e-commerce giant JD.com has been sending packages by drone in certain rural areas since last year.

And residents of a remote First Nation island in northern Ontario, Canada, will begin receiving goods by drone in 2019.

Other concerns

Video-equipped drones also pose a threat to privacy and threaten birds and other lower airspace users, critics say.

"We fear recreational airspace users such as paragliding pilots and hot air balloonists will have less freedom," says Ms Schödel.

So if you're expecting a drone to deliver your pizza any time soon, you're likely to go hungry.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-46483178

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EU gives doner kebabs a health grilling

Another week, another EU food scare. Is the future of the humble and hugely popular doner kebab now in question?

Recent headlines are not comforting for fans of the spicy, grilled Turkish meat.

"Is the doner a goner?" and "For pitta's sake" helped fuel an anxious debate, while Germany's Bild daily screamed "It could be the end of the doner!"

It's all because of a vote in the European Parliament next week. MEPs will debate whether to tighten controls over phosphate additives widely used in the meat following health warnings.

But it's not all bad news for this fast food favourite.

What's all the fuss about in the EU?

Technically phosphate additives are already banned from doner kebabs, but they are commonly used in the frozen meat and the EU rule isn't enforced.

The EU Commission wants to allow use of the additives and to regulate them - as happens already with some other processed meats, such as speciality sausages.

But a resolution put forward by the Socialist and Green groups threatens to block that move.

If it is successful, doner kebabs are likely to face tighter scrutiny.

What is the concern about phosphate additives?

There have been health warnings about a high intake of phosphate additives posing a possible risk, especially to people with cardiovascular problems and chronic kidney disease. The additives, identified by various E numbers on packaging labels, are also common in sausages and some other processed meats.

Christel Schaldemose, a Danish Socialist MEP, co-authored the resolution to block the Commission's plans. She told the BBC that "we fear the health effects" and "we don't have enough market surveillance" to control the use of phosphates.

The EU's European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) is now studying phosphate additives as a priority and plans to issue a scientific opinion on the risks before the end of next year.

"We're not saying we would ban doner meat forever, but let's wait until the Efsa review," Ms Schaldemose said.

Efsa says there is a need to establish whether the health risk comes mainly from phosphate additives or from a general accumulation of phosphates in the diet.

A scientific paper published by a German medical website, Deutsches Aerzteblatt, says naturally occurring phosphates in food - in meat, potatoes and bread, for example - "cannot be restricted without incurring the risk of lowering protein intake".

Only 40-60% of natural phosphates are absorbed by the body, but the absorption rate for phosphate additives is much higher, the study says.

"Phosphate additives in food are a matter of concern, and their potential impact on health may well have been underappreciated," it warns.

Processed meat can contain nearly 70% more phosphate than fresh meat.

Why use the additives?

Phosphate additives help to bind the meat, acting as a sort of glue. So when it's on a spit it doesn't fall apart.

That means the meat - usually lamb - should also cook through more evenly.

Phosphates can also act as acidic preservatives for meat, fish, cheese and soft drinks.

It is widely believed that they also help water retention in meat, keeping it juicy.

But Halil Ahmet, a director at Veli's Kebabs in Burton-on-Trent, said water retention was actually a bad idea.

"More water turns the meat into rubber, and the more phosphates you put in the more rubbery it gets," he told the BBC.

"We use a tiny level of phosphate - one gram per ten kilograms."

What does this all mean for kebab shops?

Nobody is threatening to ban doner kebabs, but the way the meat is produced may have to change.

Germany produces about 80% of doner meat consumed in the EU and about 110,000 German jobs depend on it.

Renate Sommer, a German MEP in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat (CDU) party, attacked the parliament resolution as "ridiculous" on Facebook (in German).

According to her, a typical EU citizen consumes as much phosphate from doner kebabs in one year as from drinking 1.5 litres (2.6 pints) of Coca-Cola.

She says kebab sellers have no alternative to phosphates for binding doner meat effectively.

But Mr Ahmet said he would like to see better checks by national food inspectors to make sure all kebab meat was up to standard.

"The checks are not adequate at all - we've complained to trading standards about other producers not conforming.

"They say 'we'll look into it', but they don't have enough inspectors."

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42238363

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Everything you need to know about pineapple

Pineapple is a tropical fruit available in any grocery store and a staple in many homes around the world.Christopher Columbus brought pineapples back to Europe after an expedition to South America. Pineapples became known as an extravagant and exotic fruit, served only at the most lavish of banquets.

However, pineapples are now common, and people are able to enjoy them in solid, dried, and juice forms.

In Central and South America, pineapple is not only valued for its sweet taste, it has been used for centuries to treat digestion problems and inflammation.

This article explores the health benefits and nutrition of pineapple, as well as providing ways to include it in the diet.

Nutrition

One cup of fresh pineapple chunks contains approximately:

  • 82 calories
  • 0.2 grams (g) of fat
  • 0 g of cholesterol
  • 2 milligrams (mg) of sodium
  • 21.65 g of total carbohydrate (including 16 grams of sugar and 2.3 grams of fiber)
  • 0.89 g of protein

As a percentage of your daily requirements, the same amount of fresh pineapple chunks provides:

  • 131 percent of vitamin C
  • 2 percent of vitamin A
  • 2 percent of calcium
  • 3 percent of iron

Pineapple is also a source of important vitamins and minerals, including:

Fresh pineapple is the only known source of an enzyme called bromelain, which might play a role in a range of different health benefits.

Benefits

Eating fruits and vegetables of all types has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like pineapples decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease.

It also promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and an overall lower weight.

The following are possible benefits of eating pineapple.

Age-related macular degeneration

In one prospective study from 2004, people who ate 3 or more servings per day of all fruits demonstrated a decreased risk and slowed progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Asthma prevention

The risks of developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients.

One of these nutrients is beta-carotene. It is found in orange, yellow and dark green plant foods, such as pineapple, mangoespapaya, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and carrots.

Some smaller studies have suggested bromelain can also contribute to reducing asthma symptoms.

Blood pressure

Increasing potassium intake by consuming high potassium fruits and vegetables can help with lowering blood pressure. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), fewer than 2 percent of U.S. adults meet the daily 4,700-mg recommendation.

A high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes.

Cancer

As an excellent source of vitamin C, a strong antioxidant, pineapples can help combat the formation of free radicals. These are linked to the development of cancer.

Older studies have shown beta-carotene to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in a Japanese population.

A 2004 case-control study linked beta-carotene to a protective effect on prostate cancer.

However, more recent studies have demonstrated that this may not be the case.

High fiber intake from all fruits and vegetables is associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.

Diabetes

Individuals with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets tend to have lower blood glucose levels, and individuals with type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulinlevels.

One medium pineapple provides about 13 g of fiber.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21 to 25 g per day for women and between 30 and 38 g per day for men.

Digestion

Pineapples, because of their fiber and water content, help to prevent constipation and promote regularity and a healthy digestive tract.

Pineapples are also rich in bromelain, an enzyme that helps the body digest proteins. Bromelain also reduces inflammatory immune cells, called cytokines, that damage the digestive tract lining.

The inedible stems are the most concentrated source of bromelain, which can be extracted and is readily available in supplement form.

Fertility

Antioxidant-rich diets have been shown to improve fertility. Because free radicals can damage the reproductive system, foods with high antioxidant activity like pineapples are recommended for those trying to conceive.

The antioxidants in pineapple, such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, and the vitamins and minerals copper, zinc, and folate have properties that affect both male and female fertility.

Healing and Inflammation

Some studies have shown that bromelain, primarily in the stem, can reduce swelling, bruising, healing time, and pain associated with injury and surgical intervention.

Heart health

The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content in pineapple all promote heart health.

In one study, people who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium per day reduced the risk of death from ischemic heart disease 49 percent when compared with those who consumed less potassium.

Researchers link high potassium intakes to a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density, and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.

Skin

The antioxidant vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form or applied topically, can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles, and improve overall skin texture.

Vitamin C also plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the support system of the skin.

Diet

Select a pineapple with a firm, plump body, without bruising, or soft spots and with green leaves at the crown.

A green outer shell does not mean the pineapple is not ripe and, contrary to popular belief, neither does the ease in which the leaves pull from the crown.

Pick pineapples at their peak ripeness. Unlike other fruits, they will not continue to ripen once picked.

Whole pineapples should be stored at room temperature, while cut pineapples should be stored in the refrigerator.

When eating canned or packaged pineapple, make sure to pick up the varieties canned in pineapple juice, not heavy syrup.

Here are a few preparation tips for including more pineapple in the diet:

  • Add pineapple to your favorite kebabs. Try shrimp, chicken, or steak kebabs with red onions, pineapple, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Make a fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and grapes. Top with unsweetened shredded coconut for a fresh twist.
  • Add some pineapple slices to your salad at lunch or dinner. Compliment the pineapple with walnuts or pecans, a crumbled cheese, and light balsamic or citrus vinaigrette dressing.
  • Make your own juice. Nothing tastes better than fresh fruit juice in the morning. When you make your own, you can be sure there are no added preservatives or sweeteners.
  • Make a fresh salsa with pineapple, mango, jalapeño, red peppers, and chipotle pepper and use as a topper for your favorite fish tacos.

There is an excellent selection of pineapple products available for purchase online, with thousands of customer reviews.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/276903.php

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Fruits that Burn Fat Like Crazy

Losing weight is not easy. Our bodies evolved to store fat to protect against periods of famine, but since millions of us are now eating way more than our bodies need, we end up with too much fat. To lose it, you need to trick your body into thinking you really are starving by taking in fewer calories than you burn.

Luckily, beyond calorie restriction, there are a few things you can do to jumpstart and extend your weight loss in a healthy way. Fruits that contain the antioxidant anthocyanin (a flavonoid) have been shown in multiple studies to increase the effects of a weight loss diet. You can usually spot an anthocyanin-rich fruit because it will be some shade of red or purple. Here are 7 great ones to add to your daily meal plan.

1. Tart Cherries

Tart cherries are a fantastic thing to eat when you’re trying to lose weight. The University of Michigan did a rat study in which it determined that over the course of 12 weeks, rats fed tart cherries had a 9% greater reduction in belly fat than rats fed a so-called Western diet. The cherries actually altered the way the animals’ fat genes worked.

Tart cherries have also been linked to heart health and a reduction in inflammation, making them a great all around choice.

2. Berries of All Kinds

This is great news, because you won’t get bored with every type of berry to choose from. Fruits in this category are full of healthy polyphenols, which not only help you lose weight, they actually stop fat from forming. A study out of Texas Women’s University discovered that mice who received 3 daily servings of berry or berry powder reduced the expected formation of fat cells by 73%.

Berries are fantastic plain, sprinkled into oatmeal, yogurt, or salads, and even dried or powdered. With this many options, it should be easy to get a little berry with each of your meals.

3. Watermelon

We may avoid watermelon on the assumption that it is mostly sugar and well, water, but it is actually quite healthy for you. According to the University of Kentucky, eating watermelon may lower your fat accumulation and improve lipid profiles to boot.

Watermelon juice is also credited with a reduction in post-workout muscle soreness. Though largely a summer fruit, when it’s available, you should feel free to have all the watermelon you want.

4. Ruby Red Grapefruit

This breakfast staple is great for reducing belly fat and lowering cholesterol levels. In fact, participants in a six-week study who ate grapefruit with every meal shrunk their waists by an inch on average. Researchers think the reason is down to the powerhouse combination of phytochemicals and vitamin C found in this citrus fruit.

Grapefruit is fun to eat, too. Simply slice it in half and scoop out the segments with a spoon. It also gives a nice tart zing to salads

5. Pink Lady Apples

Apples in general are a great source of soluble fiber, which becomes gel-like in your stomach and helps you feel full longer. The Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center reports that every time you build in 10 more grams of soluble fiber to your diet, belly fat reduces by 3.7% over a five-year period.

That means that apples can assist your weight loss by cutting food cravings, as well as continue to slim your waistline years into the future. Pink Lady apples have been found to have the most flavonoid antioxidants, making them top among a lot of great apple varieties for weight loss.

http://www.foodeatsafe.com/fruits-that-burn-fat-like-crazy/5/

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Toast of the town all the world's a stage

The modern gastronomic landscape is an intricate and competitive space, led by the world’s culinary superstars. While rock star chefs are certainly not a new concept, their prevalence and reach has never been more prominent than over the past decade – and it has changed the way we eat. TV cooking shows such as MasterChef and Top Chef have propelled the most lively of culinary maestros and their respective cuisines to worldwide audiences, who further spread the foodie message on social media, posting images of everything from street-side snacks to Michelin-star meals.

All The World's A Stage - Toast of the town - cuisine

At the same time, travel has become simpler and more affordable for many people, meaning ingredients and dishes have become increasingly exotic as chefs and gastronomes scour the globe for the next quinoa or bibimbap. Meanwhile, the standards and expectations of diners – who are eating outside the home more often – are at an all-time high. Chefs, like never before, must perform small gastronomic miracles for their guests. And this same pressure is being applied to mixologists, whose libations must all but have transformative powers.

While the food and beverage industry is meeting these new demands in myriad ways, few seem to be as effective as specialising in something, and then working to perfect the experience – as one hotel group is keenly aware of. “The Peninsula Hotels is known as a specialist in Cantonese fine dining, with renowned Chinese restaurants in the majority of our hotels,” says James Overbaugh, the Director of Global Food and Beverage Operations for the hotel group. “We are perhaps most famous for creating XO sauce at Spring Moon restaurant at The Peninsula Hong Kong.”

A relatively recent addition to Cantonese cooking, the history of this intensely garlicky chilli paste is shrouded in mystery, but the sauce is believed to have been developed in the 1980s. A dollop of XO sauce enlivens dishes, whether mixed in with tender braised beef or tossed through mussels and clams.

While the sauce has become one of Spring Moon’s signatures and is now served in the hotel group’s Chinese restaurants – and countless other eateries – worldwide, a superlative dining experience requires more than good food in today’s competitive climate. Ambience and service also play a vital role, while a storied history adds further incentive, particularly for travellers in search of something extraordinary. 

Marble floors pave the entrance to The Lobby at The Peninsula Hong Kong – one of Hong Kong’s most elegant meeting places, since 1928 – where soaring gilded columns are topped with the faces of gargoyles, all of which have been restored to their former glory. In between potted palms, guests dine on exquisite finger sandwiches to the sound of string instruments. The refined surrounds, coupled with excellent food and service, make the hotel’s daily afternoon tea one of the city’s iconic foodie experiences. And upstairs, Swiss restaurant Chesa has been one of the finest places in Hong Kong to order veal Zurichoise for more than 50 years.

Toast of the Town - kitchen

Yet even in the world’s more traditional restaurants, a new benchmark exists: An emphasis on locally sourced produce and ingredients and increasing demand for more ethical practices. “Sustainably farmed, caught or produced products are a top priority,” says Overbaugh. “Whether Fairtrade-certified coffees and chocolate, pesticide-free produce or wild-caught fish, our chefs are always looking for the best the market has to offer.” In addition to crafting dishes infused with local flavour, many restaurants are elevating their offerings by ensuring a holistic experience, which encompasses a design aesthetic that speaks to what is being offered on the plate.

Celebrating farm-to-table-style cuisine, Jing restaurant in Beijing was redesigned with a contemporary aesthetic reminiscent of a secret Chinese garden, complete with lush floral table arrangements, and artworks by leading Chinese artists. “The design needs to reflect the theme and experiential aspects of the restaurant,” says Overbaugh, “and be constructed and finished in a manner consistent with the highest level of quality.”

At The Belvedere in Beverly Hills, that meant an elegant and understated décor of cream-coloured walls and pastel blue furnishings, to allow modern art to stand out. Now, guests of the newly refurbished 25-year-old restaurant can enjoy Mediterranean fare such as wild Alaskan turbot and filet mignon while admiring artworks by the likes of Japanese icon Yayoi Kusama and American pop art hero Robert Indiana. Details like these ensure a restaurant not only stays relevant, but also becomes a must-visit destination.

“Foodie tourism is on the rise,” says Overbaugh. “For many travellers, culinary experiences and exciting, quality restaurants and bars are a critical factor in choosing a destination or hotel. Even luxury travellers who aren’t on a culinary pilgrimage are influenced by the perceived quality of a hotel’s food and beverage offerings.” As such, the Peninsula team delivers a stage-like performance that is both considered and measured, to ensure their dining options are not only worthy of best restaurant accolades but are also considered among a city’s defining visitor experiences.

All The World's A Stage - Toast of the town - Gallery one

http://www.bbc.com/storyworks/travel/all-the-worlds-a-stage/toast-of-the-town?utm_source=Elsewhere-BBC-module&utm_medium=outbrain&utm_campaign=all-the-worlds-a-stage

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Welcome, baby Kiwi: Millennials naming kids after trendy foods, study claims

By Janine Puhak | Fox News

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The most popular baby names of 2018

Watch out, Jackson and Sophia — some of your future classmates’ fresh, food-inspired names will have a kick more of unusual flavor, if one study’s prediction comes to fruition.

On Nov. 28, parenting website BabyCenter released their annual "Top 100" names list – which Jackson and Sophia crowned for the sixth year running – and reported that food-inspired “names you can taste” were among 2018’s top trends. The findings are based on the “hundreds of thousands” of baby names collected from the website’s registered users, according to the site's press release.

 

According to the study, Millennial and Gen Z parents were influenced by their “passions and values” when it came to naming little ones this year – with some apparently taking a cue from trendier pantry staples.

According to the study, Millennial and Gen Z parents were influenced by their “passions and values” when it came to naming little ones this year – with some apparently taking a cue from trendier pantry staples. (iStock)

According to the study, Millennial and Gen Z parents were influenced by their “passions and values” when it came to naming little ones this year — with some apparently taking a cue from trendier pantry staples.

AIRLINE AGENT MOCKED 5-YEAR-OLD EPILEPTIC GIRL’S NAME, MOTHER CLAIMS

For girls, Kiwi was reported as up by 40 percent, Kale, 35 percent, Maple, 32 percent, and Clementine, 15 percent. For boys, spice-inspired names like Sage reportedly experienced a 15 percent spike in popularity.

Parents eager to select an even more unique name for their tiny bundle of joy can take inspiration from monkiers like Baker, Honey, Napoleon and Plum on BabyCenter's culinary-inspired list as well.

For girls, Kiwi was reported as up by 40 percent, Kale, 35 percent, Maple, 32 percent, and Clementine, 15 percent

For girls, Kiwi was reported as up by 40 percent, Kale, 35 percent, Maple, 32 percent, and Clementine, 15 percent (iStock)

"Parents are inspired by the things they love as well as the sound of a name," BabyCenter exec Linda Murray said in the release. "In the past, we'd look to the Bible or royalty for name inspiration. Today's parents turn to other sources. We've had two decades plus of 'unique' names, and anything goes.

 

Times have certainly changed since 2004, when Gwyneth Paltrow made headlines around the world for naming her daughter Apple.

“It sounded so sweet and it conjured such a lovely picture for me – you know, apples are so sweet and they're wholesome and it's biblical – and I just thought it sounded so lovely and ... clean! And I just thought, 'Perfect!'” Paltrow told Oprah Winfrey at the time, as per Hello! magazine. 

Fox News’ Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.

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The Indian restaurants that serve only half a glass of water

While many parts of India are going through a sustained water crisis, the western city of Pune is trying to deal with the problem in a rather unusual way, writes the BBC's Geeta Pandey.

The dystopian future we worried about is already here.

Many restaurants in the city of Pune have begun serving only half glasses of water to guests.

At the pure vegetarian Kalinga restaurant, a couple have just been seated when a waiter approaches their table and asks if they want water.

"I said yes and he gave me half a glass of water," says Gauripuja Mangeshkar. "I was wondering if I was being singled out, but then I saw that he had only poured half a glass for my husband too."

For a moment, Ms Mangeshkar did wonder whether her glass was half full or half empty, but the reason why she was served less water was not really existential.

Nearly 400 restaurants in Pune have adopted this measure to reduce water use, ever since the civic authorities announced cuts in supply a month ago.

Gauripuja Mangeshkar was served half a glass of water at a restaurant in Pune

Pune Restaurant and Hoteliers' Association president Ganesh Shetty, who owns Kalinga, told the BBC that they have worked out an extensive plan to save water.

"We serve only half glasses of water and we don't refill unless asked, the leftover water is recycled and used for watering plants and cleaning the floor," Mr Shetty explained. "Many places have put in new toilets which use less water, we have put in water harvesting plants and the staff are briefed on minimising water use."

Kalinga gets about 800 customers a day and by serving only half glasses, he says the restaurant is able to save nearly 800 litres (1,691 pints) of water a day.

"Every drop is precious and we have to act now if we want to save the future."

Owner of 83-year-old Poona Guest House, Kishor Sarpotdar, shows the shorter steel tumblers he's bought to replace the earlier taller ones. His restaurant is not only serving half glasses of water, he says, they are serving them in smaller ones too.

Pune is next door to India's financial capital, Mumbai. An educational and cultural hub, it was famously described as the "Oxford and Cambridge of India" by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

This city of four million people has been well served by the Khadakwasala dam built in 1878, and water shortages are new here.

Mr Shetty says the first major water crisis the city faced was two years ago.

"For two months in February and March, our water supply was reduced by half. We got water once in two days."

Strict guidelines were issued about what fresh water supplied by the civic authorities could - or couldn't - be used for. And people were encouraged to install bore wells to pump out ground water to meet additional requirements.

All construction in the city was stopped for two months, car garages were allowed to do only dry servicing, the city celebrated a dry Holi, clubs and water resorts were barred from holding popular rain dance events and swimming pools were ordered shut.

All misuse was checked and those who erred were made to pay hefty fines.

Kishor Sarpotdar at the Poona Guest House

"It was very serious," says Col Shashikant Dalvi, Pune-based water conservation expert.

This year, he says, the situation is "worse". "Panic buttons have been pressed in October itself. How will we face the challenge in the summer months?" he asks.

According to a government report earlier this year, India is facing its worst-ever water crisis, with some 600 million people affected. The report said the crisis was "only going to get worse" in the coming years and warned that 21 cities were likely to run out of groundwater by 2020.

In May, the popular Indian tourist town of Shimla ran out of water, while last year it was reported that the city of Bangalore was drying up.

Large parts of the western state of Maharashtra, where Pune is located, are water deficient and every year, at the onset of the summer season, the state makes the news for "water wars" between districts - farmers, villagers, city residents, slum dwellers, the hospitality industry and businesses all clamouring for their share of water.

This year, that talk has already started. And it's just the beginning of winter. Many areas are already staring at drought and acute water distress.

And this time, Pune too is affected. In October, the Pune Municipal Corporation announced 10% cuts in supply for everyone.

Ganesh Shetty

"The crisis two years ago," he says, "was because of deficient rainfall. But this year, Pune had excessive rainfall until the end of July. The dams were full. So where has the water gone?"

The monsoon rains will not come before June and eight months can be a long time. "It'll be a nightmare for the city unless we get some rains in the winter," he says.

Experts blame climate change, deforestation and the rapidly growing city population as the main reasons for the water shortage. And the fact that the Khadakwasala dam reservoir has never been de-silted, which means its capacity to hold water is reducing daily.

Col Dalvi offers a prescription to deal with the water shortage in Pune and the rest of the country, because by "2025 India will be most populous country in the world".

"Leakages must be plugged, unsustainable over-extraction of ground water must stop, rooftop rain water harvesting and recycling of water must be made mandatory, otherwise shortages would get more critical," he says.

What about restaurants serving half glasses of water to patrons? Is it just a gimmick, I ask.

"Not at all," he says. "It's not a gimmick. It's an excellent idea. A drop saved is a drop gained."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46451834

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Anger over pork sausages at Germany Islam event

Germany's Interior Ministry has said it regrets serving pork sausage at a conference on Islam in Berlin earlier this week.

The ministry said the food selection had been designed for the "diverse religious attendance" at the German Islam Conference in Berlin.

But it apologised "if individuals felt offended in their religious feelings".

The event was led by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who in March said Islam "does not belong in Germany".

Most of the attendees at the Islam conference were Muslims, local media reported. Under Islamic law, Muslims are forbidden to eat pork.The type of sausage on offer was blutwurst - or "blood sausage" - which is made of ingredients including pig's blood, pork and bacon.

German journalist Tuncay Özdamar wrote on Twitter: "What signal does Seehofer's interior ministry want to send? A little respect for Muslims, who don't eat pork, is needed."

Twitter post by @TuncayOezdamar: Auf der #Islamkonferenz gestern in Berlin gab es wieder Schweinefleisch auf dem Buffet. Es wurde Blutwurst serviert. Ä°nÅ?allah halal.Welches Zeichen will Seehofers Innenministerium damit setzen? Ein wenig Respekt vor Muslimen, die kein Schweinefleisch essen, wäre angebracht.

At the start of the conference, Mr Seehofer reportedly said that he wanted to see a "German Islam".

But Özdamar added that Mr Seehofer's "elephant in a china shop" behaviour "would never gain the support of a majority of Muslims in Germany".

In its response the Interior Ministry added that it had served 13 dishes, including halal, vegetarian, meat and fish dishes and said that all food in the buffet had been clearly marked.

Twitter post by @BMI_Bund: Gerne möchten wir uns hierzu äußern

Some German media reported that pork in the form of ham had been served at the first German Islam Conference in 2006.

In his March comments, which were seen as an attempt to win back voters from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Mhttps://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46406120r Seehofer said Islam did not belong to Germany because "Germany is shaped by Christianity".

"The Muslims who live among us naturally belong to Germany... That of course does not mean that we should, out of a false consideration for others, give up our traditions and customs," he said.

However last month Mr Seehofer's Christian Social Union (CSU) party suffered big losses in the Bavarian elections, with the BBC's Germany Correspondent Jenny Hill saying its attempt to harden its tone and policies on immigration appeared to have backfired.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46406120

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THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE MORDERN APPLES

Winter’s cool indifference had already embraced the snow-tipped peaks of the Tian Shan mountain system, winds whispering the tall trees into a state of undress.

“It is cold,” said Alexey Raspopov, a guide with Trekking Club Kazakhstan, pointing to the dashboard thermometer of his 4x4 as we ascended, leaving Kazakhstan’s second city Almaty to disappear beneath a layer of smog.

One could see with his own eyes that this beautiful site was the origin of the cultivated apple

After driving for about two hours to the Turgen Gorge, we abandoned the vehicle and continued on foot. The climb was not difficult, but biting gusts threatened to take the feeling from my fingertips and steal the words from my lips as I asked Raspopov, who has led hikes in the region for the past 30 years, about the landscape that unfolded before us.

“It has changed a lot,” he said, calling upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the thickening pollution and a shrinking glacier to illustrate his point – not that he needed to. The near disappearance of the forests of Malus sieversii, or wild apple, that once blanketed the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau section of the Tian Shan mountains (which also stretches to Kyrgyzstan), are testament enough to the changing times.

The foothills of the Tian Shan mountains in Kazakhstan were once blanketed with Malus sieversii trees (Credit: Credit: Maxim Pushkarev/Alamy)

The foothills of the Tian Shan mountains in Kazakhstan were once blanketed with Malus sieversii trees.

When storied Russian scientist Nikolai Vavilov first identified the Malus sieversii as the progenitor of the domestic apple, Malus domestica, in 1929, the region’s forests were thick and their harvests bountiful.

“All around the city one could see a vast expanse of wild apples covering the foothills,” wrote Vavilov of his visit to Almaty, then Kazakhstan’s capital. “One could see with his own eyes that this beautiful site was the origin of the cultivated apple.”

Vavilov based these words on his idea that the ‘centres of origin’ of a species lie in the places where you find its highest genetic diversity. His observations that all domestic apples may originate from Almaty has since been confirmed by modern genetics.

“At some point, either seeds, trees or budwood from desirable trees was taken out of the [Malus sieversii] forests by humans and grown elsewhere,” said Gayle Volk, a research plant physiologist at the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA). “In some cases, those trees could have hybridised with wild apple species growing in other regions. The selection process continued.”

The Malus sieversii has been identified as the progenitor of the domestic apple (Credit: Credit: SuperStock/Alamy)

The Malus sieversii has been identified as the progenitor of the domestic apple.

Silk Road trade is believed to have scattered the fruit far and wide, eventually reaching North America with European colonists.

Despite being the first to scientifically assert Almaty’s association with the apple, Vavilov was not the first to observe fruit’s influence on the region. “Almaty used to be called Alma-Ata,” Raspopov told me at the apogee of our ascent. “It means ‘father of apples’,” he added, before handing me an acid-green fruit the size of a child’s fist.

Zesty, sweet and deliciously crisp, it was not plucked from one of the nearly naked branches in front of us, which, when in season, bear apples of all shapes, sizes, flavours and textures – and, as Raspopov warned me, are rarely edible. Instead, this apple was a triumph of farming and cultivation, sadly the very same human endeavours that have ravaged the wild apple’s natural habitats. This thought did not stop me from accepting another though, listening as Raspopov continued: “Kazakh people, Almaty people, they are very proud of the apple. It comes from here.”

Silk Road trade brought the apple from Kazakhstan to Europe, China and, eventually, North America (Credit: Credit: Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

Silk Road trade brought the apple from Kazakhstan to Europe, China and, eventually, North America.

That pride is worn plainly for all to see throughout the city. Billboards bearing images of apples and Almaty’s tagline, ‘the city of [a] thousand colours’, advertise nothing else but the famous fruit, injecting bold pops of red along otherwise grey highways. At the A Kasteyev State Museum of Arts, Kazakhstan’s biggest art museum, apples appear in oil paintings and metal sculptures. On a larger and more public scale, murals depicting the fruit adorn the sides of buildings, and a giant granite apple-shaped fountain is a point of attraction at Kok Tobe mountain, one of the city’s major landmarks. On my way to the cable car that takes visitors to its peak, I waited patiently in line to take a picture of a sunshine-yellow, Soviet-era car, stuffed full of plastic apples; the licence plate read ‘I love Almaty’.

In the city’s Green Bazaar, a farmers’ market thronging with locals wrapped up against the chill, precarious towers of apples fastidiously organised according to hue, size and shape beckoned. Slices were deftly cut and devoured, offered with a steady stream of Russian – the lingua franca here – and gratefully received with a grin and a quiet “spasiba” (Russian for ‘thank you’, and about the sum of my knowledge of the language).

Kazakh people, Almaty people, they are very proud of the apple

Just as the Malus sieversii is the progenitor of modern apples, the Green Bazaar is ground zero for Kazakh cuisine. Each aisle presents another ingredient or element fundamental to the country’s culinary history. There is the corner dedicated to horsemeat, from an animal so sacrosanct to the once-nomadic Kazakh people that it is considered a delicacy. Then there are countless Korean specialities, emblematic of the diaspora that led many Koreans to settle in Central Asia after being forcibly deported from Soviet Russia by Stalin in 1937, where they had fled following the breakdown of the Chosun dynasty in 1910. And there are pickles of almost every type imaginable, garnished with generous amounts of dill.

Everything needed to make some of the country’s signature dishes can be found here. Take plov, a Central Asian rice dish that each country has adapted slightly. In Kazakhstan, the twist comes in the form of apples, which are added to the customary lamb, carrots and onions for a bit of additional sweetness.

Almaty used to be called Alma-Ata, meaning ‘father of apples’ (Credit: Credit: Mercedes Hutton)

Almaty used to be called Alma-Ata, meaning ‘father of apples’.

But while the region has gladly accepted the Malus domesticaas its own, Kazakhstan’s wild apples have been decidedly neglected.

Malus sieversii is currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the ICUN Red List (last assessed in 2007), with its population ‘decreasing’. Threats to the few remaining forests include residential and commercial development, livestock farming and deforestation. Moves have recently been made to preserve those that remain in the Trans-Ili Alatau foothills by Italy’s Slow Food foundation (which requires permits for visitors to enter the forest) with funding from Cultures of Resistance Network.

“Again and again, Slow Food has demonstrated that slowing down and paying attention to what we eat is not just a matter of the lifestyle choices of the affluent,” said Iara Lee, director of Cultures of Resistance Network. “It’s about highlighting models of agroecology that provide alternatives to environmentally destructive corporate farming, where profit becomes the driving concern. We need alternative models now more than ever.”

Today, images of apples can be found all around Almaty (Credit: Credit: Oleg Upalyuk/Alamy)

Whether Vavilov foresaw such destructive human activity when he first visited Almaty is impossible to imagine. However, the visionary scientist made certain to collect Malus sieversii seeds to protect the species and help prevent any future famine. He added them to his collection of 250,000 seeds, fruits and roots at one of the world’s first gene banks in Leningrad (now St Petersburg).

During the Siege of Leningrad from 1941 to 1944, several botanists who worked at the gene bank chose to starve to death rather than eat the seeds stored there. Vavilov also died of starvation, imprisoned in the gulag for falling out of favour with those in power. Thankfully, though, his legacy survives to this day. Now named the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry(VIR), the gene bank is the only facility of its kind in Russia.

“We collect, evaluate, maintain and use the collection according to Vavilov’s theories and approaches,” said Igor Loskutov, the head of the institute’s rye, barley and oats genetic resources department. “We are working to prevent the loss of genetic diversity and genetic erosion. The VIR is important not only for Russia, but for the whole of mankind.”

Volk agreed: “The wild species in their native habitats will always be important, however, gene banks increase accessibility to the wild species and can serve as a partial backup in case of unexpected circumstances,” she said.

The Malus sieversii is currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the ICUN Red List (Credit: Credit: Ana Flašker/Alamy)

Although apples feature prominently in Kazakh cuisine, the Malus sieversii is currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the ICUN Red List.

In the case of Almaty’s wild apple forests, let’s hope those unexpected circumstances never arise.

Back in the birthplace of the modern apple, the work of Vavilov, along with his courageous colleagues and his contemporaries, is a footnote in the story of a city whose identity is entwined with the fruit. To celebrate their work, and to satisfy a sudden craving, I stepped into a street-side stall and bought a mottled green-and-red apple. It was delicious.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misidentified the car filled with apples as a Volga. We regret the error.http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20181120-the-birthplace-of-the-modern-applehttp://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20181120-the-birthplace-of-the-modern-apple

Culinary Roots is a series from BBC Travel connecting to the rare and local foods woven into a place’s heritage.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20181120-the-birthplace-of-the-modern-apple

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What is palm oil and why is it damaging?

As the petition to release Iceland's TV Christmas advert tops a million signatures, we look at why palm oil is so controversial.

Last week, it was announced the supermarket's main Christmas advert would not make it to air.

The Greenpeace-made advert chronicles the plight of the critically endangered orangutan, whose habitat is being destroyed by the production of palm oil.

It was blocked by Clearcast - the body responsible for clearing ads before broadcast - for being too political.

Clearcast says on its website: "An advertisement contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is:

"An advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature."

orangutan in indonesia

Voiced by actress Emma Thompson, the animated short film talks about the destruction of the rainforest.

Earlier this year, Iceland committed to remove palm oil from all its own-brand foods by the end of 2018.

Claire Bass, UK executive director of Humane Society International, told Sky News: "Orangutans not only have their forest homes destroyed, but they can also be directly killed by palm oil workers in efforts to clear the land.

"We're losing these great apes at the rate of 25 every single day, so we either act now or lose them forever."

The story touched millions of people who took the time to sign the petition, started by Mark Topps.

Mr Topps told Sky News: "I first watched the advert with my five-year-old daughter and it sparked a conversation about the rainforest.

"The petition has raised awareness and spreading the message of sustainability within the palm oil trade and ensuring that companies are held accountable and that we can protect and preserve our environment and the wildlife within it."

Despite palm oil being in most of the products we use every day, not everyone is aware of what exactly it is, what the problem with it is, and why it's used so much.

A worker unloads palm oil fruits from a lorry inside a palm oil factory in Salak Tinggi, outside Kuala Lumpur August 4, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said/File Photo

What is palm oil?

It is the most popular type of vegetable oil derived from palm oil fruit.

About half of all the products you can buy in a supermarket contain palm oil.

It's in shampoos, cosmetics, chocolate, crisps, cleaning products, cereals, protein bars - to name a few.

Palm oil is not always listed as such on a product's ingredients.

A lot of products contain derivatives of the oil itself, but it's still palm oil.

Alternative names include azelaic acid, cocoa butter equivalent, glycerin and anything that contains the word "palm".

n aerial view is seen of forest being cleared by palm oil companies in the Ketapang district of Indonesia's West Kalimantan province, July 5, 2010. The photograph was taken as part of a media trip organised by conservationist group Greenpeace, which has campaigned against palm oil expansion in forested areas in Indonesia. REUTERS/Crack Palinggi (INDONESIA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER BUSINESS IMAGES OF THE DAY)

What does it have to do with the orangutan?

The mass production of palm oil is linked to deforestation, habitat loss, climate change and animal cruelty.

Orangutans have become critically endangered, as forests are bulldozed to make way for palm oil plantations.

After palm oil plantations are established, scores of orangutans are displaced.

Hungry and out of their natural habitat, they try to find food in plantation areas.

They are often killed in order to protect the plantation sites.

More than 90% of orangutan habitat has been destroyed in the last 20 years.

Ms Bass says: "Most palm oil is produced in Indonesia, home to critically endangered orangutans, as well as rhinos, tigers and their unique ecosystems.

"There is a also growing concern that palm oil production will soon expand to Africa and threaten the habitats and primate species there."

Stock photo ID:160651717
Upload date:February 01, 2013

If it's so bad, why is it so popular?

It's popular because it's high yield, so it's cheap to produce.

About 80% of the world's supply of palm oil is produced by Indonesia and Malaysia.

Most of the world's palm oil is produced and exported from Indonesia and Malaysia, but to devastating effects.

It is Indonesia's third largest export earner.

So should consumers boycott products containing palm oil?

No. Palm oil can be grown without destroying rainforests, so if you opt for products which contain sustainable palm oil there is no need to boycott anything, just alter your choices.

As long as the product is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which has become the globally recognised standard for sustainable palm oil, it means it has been produced according to a specific criteria.

A video shared by International Animal Rescue (IAR) on World Environment Day, June 5, showed the harrowing reality of deforestation in Indonesia, as an orangutan was seen confronting a bulldozer that was destroying its habitat.

Why can't a less harmful vegetable oil be mass produced instead?

It would basically be replacing one problem with another.

 

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Exporting pain: U.S.-made medical devices cause serious injuries, pain overseas

Nov. 25, 2018 / 5:07 PM GMT

By Andrew W. Lehren and Emily Siegel

After years in the military and playing rugby, Wolfgang Neszpor was used to his battered body making noises, but he was stunned when he heard his recently repaired shoulder squeak.

"It was loud. You could really hear it outside my body," he said.

He went to his doctor, who, when examining him, lifted up his arm.

"I nearly went through the roof," Neszpor recalled. "I can take a fair bit of pain. But it was a stupid amount of pain."

Two months earlier, Neszpor, 36, had gotten a new shoulder joint made out of carbon fiber. It was a PyroTITAN, made by Integra LifeSciences, a New Jersey company that ranks among the biggest medical device companies in the world.

Neszpor lives in Australia, where his operation was performed in 2014. He believed the Made in the USA label meant his shoulder would be fixed with state-of-the-art technology.

Thousands of medical devices made in U.S. are approved only for sale overseas

Nov. 24, 201802:47

What he did not know is that even though it was made in the USA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had not, and still has not, deemed it good enough for Americans. A clinical trial is underway and the company said it hopes to get approval upon completion. But the agency has permitted its sale overseas since 2012 under an obscure provision in which the PyroTITAN was registered as an "export only" device, requiring far less FDA scrutiny than for devices that are sold domestically.

The PyroTITAN is one of more than a dozen export-only devices with troubled track records identified by NBC News, including U.S.-made implants for losing weight that instead led to emergency surgeries, stents that could cut into arteries they were supposed to save, and heart valves sold in Spain and Italy that, according to the FDA, caused severe infections and may have caused a five-year-old child to die. There may well be more. NBC News found these by analyzing and comparing databases in 10 countries, and a lack of international standards for identifying devices means it is difficult to know how many other troubled devices exist.

For U.S. companies, exporting medical devices is big business, valued last year at more than $41 billion. Currently about 4,600 devices are registered with the FDA as "export only" devices. Several executives for medical device makers said registering the devices is faster, less expensive and has involved less oversight than getting them approved for sale inside the U.S. The troubled devices identified by NBC News have been sold around the world. The destinations range from the Netherlands to Namibia, Chile to Canada, Japan to Germany.

NBC News probed export-only devices as part of a global project organized by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a news organization notable for its work on the Panama Papers, to examine the medical device industry. More than 250 reporters in 36 countries worked on stories that began publishing Sunday.

Wolfgang Neszpor

Wolfgang Neszpor, after years in the military and playing rugby, was used to his battered body making noises, but the 36-year-old was stunned when he heard his recently repaired shoulder squeak.Cheryl Goodenough / Redland City Bulletin

The FDA says its oversight for these products is limited. "The FDA does not have the authority to take action on export-only devices marketed in other countries simply because they do not meet the agency's requirements for marketing in the United States," the agency told NBC News.

The PyroTITAN already had documented problems before it was embedded into Neszpor's shoulder. The company had alerted the medical community in 2012 that some models could break. After his surgery, more flaws emerged. In 2013, Australian authorities warned that, for some, the PyroTITAN broke in its first year. A 2016 recall cautioned the device needed so much friction to snap into place that it could burn the arm bone when it was implanted. Out of an untold number of implants, at least 19 patients needed to have the PyroTITAN removed. Neszpor is one of them.

"That raises a lot of ethical and moral and health questions," said Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, who helped establish Public Citizen, a consumer health advocacy organization, and frequently testifies before Congress on patient safety.

"It sort of also raises the question, 'Is an American life worth more than a British life or an Australian life?'" he said. "I mean that's the reason they're not being approved here, is because you're protecting an American life. So why would it be okay for another country?"

Less oversight

When Congress, in bipartisan legislation, created the framework for "export only" devices, proponents argued FDA oversight should be minimal. Other countries should decide whether a U.S.-made device was good enough for its residents.

"Why should Congress presume to forbid American manufacturers the opportunity to sell products in these countries after these governments have independently found that such products are legal to make and use?" said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, when the law was being created. "Can we not rely upon the Chinese and Russian governments to act in the best interests of [their] own citizens?"

The PyroTITAN is one of more than a dozen export only devices identified by NBC News with troubled track records.

The PyroTITAN is one of more than a dozen export-only devices identified by NBC News with troubled track records.PyroTITAN

After the law passed in 1996, the FDA proposed rules to fill in the framework of the legislation. The medical device industry pushed back on several suggested provisions.

Perhaps the most significant was in 2000. The FDA proposed that U.S. manufacturers track alleged problems overseas, in a process called postmarket surveillance. When U.S.-made devices are sold domestically, they undergo that kind of scrutiny.

AdvaMed, the medical device industry's leading trade group, protested, writing to the FDA that the rule "would impose substantial, unnecessary burdens on device manufacturers" and cast a "chilling effect" on smaller U.S. companies

Instead, AdvaMed countered, medical device makers would meet existing rules by submitting adverse event reports to the FDA. Its adverse event database, with 7.2 million entries, is a key tripwire for the agency to spot problems. But according to the FDA, companies only need to file adverse events for export-only products if they have a similar domestic version of the device. Otherwise, adverse event filings would be voluntary.

In 2002, the FDA agreed with AdvaMed and abandoned seeking postmarket surveillance.

An NBC News review found Integra LifeSciences never filed adverse event reports for the PryroTITAN. Company filings show it knew about breaks and burns. Public records in Australia document that at least 19 patients needed revision surgery to replace broken devices. Further review shows at least two other U.S. makers of export-only devices also failed to report adverse events for serious incidents. In these cases, adverse event reporting appears to have been voluntary. The firms do not yet have a domestic version of the products, though they all have indicated they hope to later bring the products to the U.S. market.

Integra LifeSciences did not respond to questions about why it did not file any PyroTITAN adverse event reports.

Black powder

For Integra LifeSciences, the PyroTITAN was once a key to success in Europe.

The company is headquartered near Trenton, New Jersey, employs about 4,400 and ranks among the world's 50 largest publicly traded medical device companies. A key to its growth is acquiring other businesses. That's how it got the PyroTITAN.

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In 2012, Integra LifeSciences told the investment trade press that it intended to expand in Europe, with the PyroTITAN part of the strategy. The device had been given a CE mark, a designation meaning it was approved for sale in Europe. A 2013 company catalog showed it was also for sale in the Middle East and Africa. Surgeons had implanted it in patients in Italy and New Zealand. The company told investors in 2014 that it hoped to soon win FDA approval for the lucrative U.S. market.

At the same time the PyroTITAN was sold in the general medical market, it was undergoing a clinical trial in Sweden and another in Sweden, France, the UK and Australia. That is how Neszpor learned of the device. He had undergone previous surgeries and treatments for shoulder injuries. While Australians could get the PyroTITAN in the nation's general medical market, Neszpor's doctor encouraged him to enter the multinational clinical trial.

The doctor "persuaded and pushed towards" the PyroTITAN, Neszpor said, and minimized the risk.

When Neszpor returned after surgery because his shoulder squeaked, he recalled his doctor recommended he take fewer pain medications. "There was no sympathy at all," Neszpor said. "It was just he wanted their thing to work."

In 2014, Neszpor turned to Dr. Desmond Soares, a prominent orthopedic surgeon who has also held governmental and political posts in Australia. After looking at x-rays, Soares was skeptical that the PyroTITAN was the problem. Neszpor pressed him. Soares agreed to surgically peer inside his shoulder. He did not like what he saw.

"As we opened the shoulder implant, you could see some black powdery stuff," the doctor recalled. He spotted a crack in the device. "As I took that off, underneath in the bone, there were black powdery fragments, which is obviously the disintegrating carbon from the PyroTITAN implant."

Soares said Australia's way of evaluating a product for approval is "very broken" and questioned how the PyroTITAN was approved for general use. Australia's version of the FDA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, issued a statement that the reason is the PyroTITAN had earned a CE mark, Europe’s version of device approval, given by independent evaluation firms.

Orthopedic surgeon Desmond Soares

Orthopedic surgeon Desmond SoaresTom Hancock / Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Several experts, including Wolfe, said this underscores a flaw in the U.S. export-only process, because regulators in many countries do not conduct their own rigorous evaluations.

Australian surgeon Dr. Philip Duke, who was one of several doctors in the PyroTITAN trials, defended the product and the clinical trials.

"I strive to ensure that the research is conducted in full compliance with all applicable regulations and medical ethics guidelines, and with the full disclosure of any known risks to trial participants," he said.

Within several years after Neszpor's surgery, Integra LifeSciences suspended the two clinical trials for the device. The device never lost approval for sale in the Australian and European general markets. Integra LifeSciences has since started a new trial in Australia.

"Today, the PyroTITAN device meets all regulatory, safety and performance requirements," the company wrote in a statement to NBC News, and "has enabled many patients to regain the mobility of their shoulders." The company did not say whether the device had been modified.

The company noted that Australian government data shows it is "comparable" to rivals when tabulating the number of revision surgeries, and Integra LifeSciences monitors the safety of its implant.

The new Australian clinical trial for the PyroTITAN is due to end in 2020, and if the results are favorable, Integra LifeSciences may then seek FDA approval for sale in the U.S.

Heart valves gone wrong

At least one U.S. company's export-only devices appeared to have contributed to a death.

Shelhigh Inc. of Union, New Jersey, turned cow and pig parts into heart valves for children and grafts for damaged arteries. They were marketed in the U.S., while export-only versions were sold in Germany, Spain, Japan and Italy.

In 2007, the FDA grew concerned about how Shelhigh did its work, according to court records. Company lab tests showed pathogens in some of the devices, and the FDA said Shelhigh was not taking action. The FDA said devices were made in unsanitary conditions, and that the company had refused to explain how it ensured sterilization.

The FDA seized Shelhigh's devices, arguing the company violated good manufacturing practices.

Shelhigh sued in federal court to get them back, contending the FDA did not have the right to judge its manufacturing since the devices were destined for a foreign market. Regulators in Spain and Italy had deemed Shelhigh's products good enough, it reasoned, so the FDA should not second-guess those decisions.

The case would become a landmark in the regulation of export-only devices.

A court document shows an FDA inspector found that Shelhigh failed to notify the FDA about adverse events. He stated its devices "reasonably" played a role in causing three heart infections, two emergency surgeries and the death of a five-year-old.

The FDA issued its most serious kind of recall notice because the devices posed a "reasonable probability that use of or exposure to a product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death."

The warnings spread. In Ireland, authorities warned Irish citizens who may have been medical tourists and gotten Shelhigh devices while seeking inexpensive care in Italy or Spain.

The judge sided with the FDA, and some in the medical device industry criticized the decision as a precedent permitting FDA overreach. They believed it could have opened the door for the FDA to regulate export-only devices.

In a medical law journal, three attorneys who represented device makers wrote the ruling "could have drastic consequences for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries." They argued the FDA had no right to judge manufacturing standards for products never sold in the United States, and that this was a "departure from its historic interpretation of export provisions," done without first seeking feedback from the public industry.

Shelhigh is out of business. Lea Gabbay, who was a company executive, disagreed with the FDA's portrayal of the firm. The adverse events were "never, never device-related," she contended. "The product was very much in demand and it was saving lives."

Instead, she contended, the FDA "really wanted us out" because the business had run afoul of agency "politics."

Mimicking gastric bypass surgery

One company working hard to get back in the good graces of regulators after a series of problems is the Massachusetts firm GI Dynamics.

It developed the EndoBarrier to mimic gastric bypass surgery. Instead of cutting out part of the bowels, a doctor would insert two feet of plastic tubing into the intestines. The device is designed to help those suffering from obesity and diabetes. It stays in the patient's stomach for up to a year.

The EndoBarrier was implanted in Dutch, Chilean and Australian patients beginning in 2011.

Problems emerged. Australian authorities issued two hazard warnings for complications, including cuts and bleeding in the digestive system, and concerns about bacterial infections, including pus-filled abscesses on the liver, even after the device is removed.

Ton Bogers, who lives in the Netherlands near the Belgian border, said he was debilitated by abscesses on his pancreas after implantation of an EndoBarrier device.

Ton Bogers

Ton BogersCourtesy Ton Bogers

He loves riding motorcycles, but was, by his own admission, overweight and suffering from diabetes. Through Google searching he learned about the EndoBarrier. He preferred the less-invasive implanting by a scope rather than stomach surgery. In February 2014, his EndoBarrier was implanted.

At first Bogers lost weight and was pleased. Then he fell ill and was hospitalized.

"I screamed through the entire hospital from pain," he recalled. He listed ailments including an infection and abscesses on his pancreas. The implant was removed in June 2014. He recounted being in and out of hospitals for two years. He weakened. He needed a feeding tube for a while, lost his job and had to learn to walk again.

The U.S. FDA halted clinical trials on the EndoBarrier in 2015 because of the abscess problems. The company lost its CE mark in Europe in 2017. An NBC News review of adverse event data found the company did not file adverse event reports with the FDA about the four patients who suffered infections and abscesses leading to the shutdown of the clinical trial.

"The company was doing an inadequate job," said Scott Schorer, the company president and chief executive officer brought in to overhaul GI Dynamics. He said the problems were not about the design of the EndoBarrier, but the company's quality control and oversight. He said the new team emphasizes patient safety, looks forward to re-entering the marketplace, and believes the device is safer than gastric bypass surgery.

The firm has approval to resume clinical trials and hopes to obtain a new CE mark in Europe next year.

Other troubled devices

Among the other troubled export-only devices found by NBC News are stents that could cause internal bleeding, inflatable stomach balloons that blocked bowels, and insulin pumps that could malfunction and leave diabetics uncertain if they need insulin.

Cordis, a Cardinal Health Inc. subsidiary, sells malleable mesh stents, branded as the S.M.A.R.T. Flex Vascular Stent System, in more than a dozen countries, including Armenia, Jordan, Colombia and Iran.

Last year, the stent was recalled because deploying it inside patients could cause internal bleeding. The company reported that three patients had suffered injuries. Cordis said none of the incidents "are believed to be related to the device" but it could not rule out that the stents were the cause. About 2,700 stents were recalled in Germany and elsewhere. Later in the year, the company recalled more than 500 stents because of possible cracks. The company declined to comment.

For those suffering from obesity in Europe and the Middle East, Allurion, a Massachusetts company, sells a balloon that will expand in the stomach, in the hope that patients will feel full and lose weight.

UK and Saudi Arabian authorities issued warnings in 2016 after two patients experienced malfunctions where balloons filled up too much and lodged inside patients' intestines. The company blamed two bad production lots and recommended doctors consider procedures to go inside patients and tear up the balloons to avoid the risk of blocked bowels.

The company did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Medtronic makes many kinds of insulin pumps advertised as "artificial pancreas[es]," including the MiniMed 640G. The 640G is sold around the world, including Europe, Japan, Australia, Namibia, Kenya and India.

Medtronic's MiniMed 640G

Medtronic makes many kinds of insulin pumps advertised as an "artificial pancreas," and one is just for the foreign market, the MiniMed 640G. It is sold around the world, including Europe, Japan, Australia, Namibia, Kenya and India.MedTronic

The export-only product has been the subject of a half-dozen recalls and notifications from 2015 to 2018 for a series of problems covering more than 42,000 devices. These included mechanical malfunctions, problematic pumps, software failures and alarms that did not sound. The concern is that diabetics could become uncertain whether they were getting the proper amount of insulin, which might lead to health problems.

"Safety is our first and foremost priority, and we adhere to the highest medical, scientific, regulatory and legal standards," the company said in a statement to NBC News. "We keep careful track of our customers around the world so that if we need to notify them of a potential issue with their product, we can do so."

Back in Australia, Nezspor believes his life was diminished by the PyroTITAN shoulder, and it has hurt his family.

"I thought I was really going to get something out of it," said Nezspor, the father of six children. "You sit here and mull over it. You feel like less of a person because you can't get involved in your kids' lives and you can't do the things that you want to do."

Andrew W. Lehren

Andrew W. Lehren is a senior editor with the NBC News Investigative Unit.

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