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Items filtered by date: April 2016
Monday, 30 May 2016 16:40

Support Councilwoman Gore

EDITORIAL: Support Councilwoman Gore
 
Ignore Biased Local Media and Government Officials Serving Special Interests
 
Charleton Heston once made a movie named “Soylent Green.” It was set in the not-to-distant future when man had destroyed the natural environment of the land so badly nothing would grow. People were surviving by eating food produced in the oceans. When Heston discovers that the oceans are in their final death throes and the people are being fed reconstituted human bodies he is hunted down and shot to keep him from disclosing the facts to everyone.  The powers that be have never liked us to know the truth; they believe with true arrogance that “The People” are incapable of thinking for themselves.
While this is a fictional account of a possible future, there is really no disputing that we are facing the collapse of our planetary biospheres at an unprecedented rate. Over 80% of our ocean fisheries are either fully exploited, over-exploited or already in collapse and now, just this week we’ve witnesses another massive Green Algae breakout on our own Caloosahatchee River. The problem is hitting home and while our elected officials shift the blame around and avoid real solutions because they are indebted or enamored with big agriculture and sugar growers, public utilities, mining and ranching interests –these very real boogiemen continue to squander our common heritage and quality of life for short-term profits. It is so bad that even the corporate media – our local Gannett paper, the News Press, ran a headline this week that read:
 
River Gunk: Algae Bloom Turns the Caloosahatchee Green
 
And all the while, most of our elected officials continue to try and deflect us from the most serious crisis in our community – the continued availability of clean, healthy water.
Just this past week in what should be a friendly environment of local council members meeting on Fort Myers Beach, the manipulations by the key players reached new heights. While hosting Kevin Ruane, mayor of Sanibel, and self-proclaimed people’s champion for proper environmental policies, one of the newly elected members of the Beach Council – Tracey Gore – tried to get some hard answers to her questions about why better, more effective policies were being avoided as the rivers and coastal areas turn green and brown with algae caused by known culprits. Rather than directly address her concerns, Ruane, aided by Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki, insulted Gore, saying she was the problem!
To add injury to insult the so-called “local paper” – The Island Sand Paper published a scathing editorial by its Editor Missy Layfield calling Gore to further task instead of defending their brave council woman’s persistence to get answers to legitimate questions. Most residents of Fort Myers Beach recently elected Gore by wide margins BECAUSE she is seen as a genuinely honest champion of the people in sharp contrast to some other local politicians that are ostensibly under the control of a few well-placed or well-heeled insiders like businessman Al Durett, the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Island Sand Paper itself. A newspaper that, co-incidentally derives a substantial portion of its revenues from Durrett or his shopping mall and marina interests.
Gore was opposed by these folks but was elected in spite of their opposition because the people want answers. They are sick of walking our beaches and seeing dead fish and disgusting algae; they are sick of reading about the bad water policies but seeing nothing done about it and they are angry that those they elect seem to fall under the spell of those with money to spend on protecting their special interests rather than looking out for the rest of us.
This is not just a local phenomenon as witnessed by the rise of outsiders like Donald Trump and Ben Carson or those like Bernie Sanders that have social agendas never before popular in America. The people are waking up and they understand that much of the media and almost all of our governmental agencies are avoiding real solutions because those with the purse strings manipulate us to no end.
Unfortunately for those trying to stay below the radar as they manipulate, Fort Myers Beach has a very active and politically aware population living on its tiny Island jurisdiction. And they have awoken even more than the general population.
We take umbrage with the Island Sand Paper for publishing an editorial chastising councilwoman Gore. As the former Editor and Founder of the Sand Paper (I started and ran it from its inception in 2000 until sold in 2010) I have unique knowledge of how it makes money on the Beach. I find it quite disingenuous that Editor Layfield would take Gore to task for “lack of civility” while ignoring the underlying frustration Gore must feel from never getting direct answers to the very questions we elected her to ask. A true community paper should spend more time on ferreting out malfeasance and misfeasance in government and less time dispensing “kudos” to further ingratiate itself with Islanders. A newspaper should be a watchdog, not a lapdog.
As a former Chairman of the Board of the local Chamber, I have unique knowledge of how that organization pretends to be for the good of all but really just serves its own interests and the interests of those members that pay into its coffer.
And finally, as someone who has heard Mr. Durrett curse and slam public officials that don’t kowtow to his agendas and bow down to his money, I feel my opinion (if not fact) is well informed and grounded in knowledge certain gained from years of dealing with these people. It should also be noted that Durett is one of the biggest advertisers in the Sand Paper and also supports the Chamber.
Make no mistake the paper, chamber and moneyman have formed an alliance for their own sakes and Tracey Gore’s election has upset their apple cart.
One of the saddest things to witness is how many otherwise good locals are still being deceived by these special interests masquerading as “friends of the Beach”, whether by some paltry donations or “special recognition” or even in the name of art.
Council woman Gore is one of the true people’s champions I have seen in my long years researching, writing and publishing in South Florida. Do not be duped by media attacks or any other form of diversion. Stand by her, she will make you proud.
Caption: This photo shows what the water looks like in the Caloosahatchee River as it flows into our backyard. As our waters continue to sicken threatening the foundations of our prosperity and health, officials continue to ignore real solutions to the problem. In typical fashion, political infighting, diversion and finger-pointing at anyone who dares to address the root causes of our water quality decline - big sugar, agriculture, mining and ranching in complicity with the best elected officials these special interests can buy - continues unchecked and in most instances unchallenged. Even at the most local of levels, politics and business as usual is preventing sound policies from being formulated and implemented. (See the related Editorial in this weeks edition for one recent example of why it is so difficult to cut through politics and implement commonsense)
Published in Politics

“Over the past decade, the United States has witnessed an increase of drugs, weapons, migrants, unaccompanied children and people with ties to terrorism into our country,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Whitlock, the deputy director of the Politico-Military Affairs for the western hemisphere.

Recently, leaders from across government, the Armed Forces and law enforcement came together at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition transnational organized crime panel to discuss these increases and the challenges the nation faces as a result.

“I think these increases are in direct correlation to international drug traffickers and criminal networks observing and emulating one another’s methods so they can adopt new and more effective practices,” said Whitlock. “This symbiotic relationship has created transnational organized crime and other illicit networks that can actually pose a threat to the United States’ national security interests as well as those of our allies and partners.”

Transnational organized crime (TOC) networks conduct illicit activities, such as trafficking of drugs, people and weapons, piracy and cyber-crime that not only poses a threat to our national security, but also undermines the stability of the nations they operate in.

Combating these networks is a key goal of Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft’s Western Hemisphere Strategy. In the strategy, Zukunft lays forward a plan outlining a unity of effort amongst governmental agencies to defeat these networks and ensure maritime security in our hemisphere.

“With criminal networks spreading across the world, the U.S. does not have the sole ability or authority to go after them so we have to build coalitions both with other governments as well as private sector academia,” said Patrick Dutton, the National Security Council director for transnational organized crime. “Part of that is being able to find stakeholders in other countries and regions in the world that we can get either information from or use to convey messages.”

Current World Illicit Trafficking

In 2011, President Obama called for the establishment an interagency Threat Mitigation Working Group to identify the TOC networks that present a sufficiently high national security threat. The working group is composed of agencies, such as the Coast Guard, Navy and Army, who work together to effectively protect our borders, people, economy and financial system from the threats posed by the most dangerous and sophisticated of these transnational criminal networks.

The group focuses on defining what criteria to use in determining the level of risk for each TOC, such as if the TOC is believed to have access to sensitive technologies like weapons of mass destruction or terrorist links. The group also develops action plans to minimize the threat of TOCs and assesses the success of the action plans.

“When I tell you it’s a complex thing we’re trying to accomplish, that’s probably the biggest understatement I’ve made all year,” said Coast Guard Capt. Peter Hatch, the deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Force. “The things that we’re trying to accomplish when you think about crime and what our national desired outcomes are going to be for the different criminal networks we’re up against, it’s not going to be uniform. Sometimes we’re going to arrest Pablo Escobar and that’s going to be the thing that takes down the criminal network. Sometimes we’re going to build a school in Tapachula and that’s what’s going to diminish or prevent the reconstitution of the criminal network. Every criminal network is going to be treated differently.”

To combat the root of the problem and provide stability in the region a TOC is based, the group must study and research each TOC to determine not only what they are transporting, but also what impact and influence they have in that region.

The group also investigates how the criminal network will impact national security. For instance, how a heroin smuggling ring will affect national security compared to a marijuana smuggling ring.

To accomplish this task, the working group relies on analytical support and information sharing to build a strong network to combat TOC networks.

“It takes a network to defeat a network,” said Navy Rear Adm. Brian Brakke, the deputy director for Operations and Intelligence Integration, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.

Working with domestic and international partners, the Coast Guard will aggressively pursue and target TOC networks.

The Coast Guard maintains unique capabilities and authorities to detect and engage TOC networks in areas where they are not only unchallenged by other partners, but where they are also most vulnerable to disruption.

As the only military law enforcement organization that is a member of the national intelligence community, the Coast Guard bridges traditional authority gaps between military and law enforcement organizations, and maintains persistent presence in areas where other partners are unable to operate.

 Written by Connie Terrell

Photos and source material courtesy Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard.

Published in General/Features
National Security Advisor Susan Rice recently told graduates at Florida International University that there are “too many white, male, and Yale"
Published in Politics
Monday, 30 May 2016 16:29

Florida Retirement Places

The Sunshine State is one of the most highly sought out states for individuals planning on retirement.

Published in Lifestyle
Monday, 30 May 2016 16:21

Elephants Came To Town

The first known circus did not include performing elephants! I have read that it was called the Circus Maximus, of ancient Rome. Opened in 329 B.C., its main attraction was chariot races. Between the races, tightrope walkers, acrobats, and horseback riders entertained the audiences.

The circus, as we know it today, dates from the early 18th century, when acrobats, jugglers, clowns and other entertainers traveled from town to town in search of paying audiences. Around 1768, English horseman, Philip Astley, began performing tricks indoors on horseback. Soon he added comical scenes about a character that could barely get on a horse much less ride it. Audiences loved the show. So Astley added more riders, jugglers, tumblers, animal acts, and a clown. Within a “ring”, a rider on horseback and a clown became the comic elements and main attractions of circuses.

But the first circus in America took place in 1793 in Philadelphia, which was then the capital of the U.S. John Bill Rickett’s circus featured horseback riding as the main attraction, nut rope-dancers, acrobats and clowns also entertained the crowds. President George Washington twice attended the circus!

I first saw a circus in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, when the elephants came to town and I was a child of the 1930’s! In the late spring, a week before the arrival of the animals-previously only seen in picture books-brilliantly colored posters were tacked on utility poles or displayed in stores’ windows in our second-class coal mining city.

My friend Cookie and I were both very excited when either her or my mother would take us to the area where the circus train would stop. We were awakened before dawn on that morning and walked the three blocks, behind Miner Park, where the circus would organize itself! Impatiently we waited near the train tracks until we could finally see the big headlight of the train as it came into view, coming closer and closer! The huge wheels of the train finally came to a halt and excitement grew when the boxcars’ doors were opened to the sound of the roaring caged animals inside. All seemed so dangerously exciting.

We watched as the cars were emptied and the workers began the transport of “the circus”

Published in General/Features
Monday, 30 May 2016 16:18

My Letter

SunBay,    I've been reading the letters to the Editor for some months now, and have been amazed and insulted by a few individuals who wrote in to claim that We, the citizens and residents of FMB are a bunch of ignorant,regressive throwback Neanderthals!!!  Because the MAJORITY of us ARE against the "Grand"Resort Monstrosity Building project.                    Hey, Excuse Me!!!  We the People have SPOKEN, sorry!!   We DID'NT want New York city overlooking Times Square,  We DID'NT want a huge population density increase on the Northend of the Island, We DID'NT want a Big seawall that would only serve a few and disrupt Mama Nature, and lastly, We DID'NT want ANOTHER Big construction project jamming up Estero Blvd like We already have with this 5yr."Refresh" project that's daily, already Clogging up our lives.          By the way, We Love Our Little Island the way it's been, and the way it is.....Call us regressive throwbacks if You will,but, We DON'T care, We DON'T have to, Hah!!!!           JD.Burdge/Artist/Musician/Cartoonist      

Published in Letters To The Editor

In spring 2012, the National Geographic Channel was about to premiere Diggers,

Published in General/Features

President Barack Obama and the United States favor illegal migration in Europe because they want to fill it up with Muslims, Janos Lazar, chief of staff for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday.

Lazar elaborated saying Hungarian-born American financier George Soros is a “standard-bearer” for Obama's European immigration policies. “Certain American groups" want Europe to be "diluted ... so Europe and America can cooperate without restraint," he emphatically added.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he had not seen or heard Lazar's comments, but, once apprised, replied, "I'm not sure they're worthy of a response."

Lazar further pointed out that Soros has “long been a patron” of certain liberal segments of the American Democratic Party  who have pushed a one-world order agenda, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton, currently the front-runner for the Democratic nominee in the upcoming U.S. presidential election cycle. Lazar added that Soros was a “die-hard Democratic Party supporter” who was "ready to step up" against Orban.

"Not so long ago while visiting Europe, President Obama clearly spoke out in favor of the importance of migration, settlement and even the forced settlement (of migrants)," Lazar said at a news conference. Obama and America "are following a very strong pro-migration, pro-illegal migration policy in the interests of having as many Muslims as possible in Europe."

Orban has said that the vast majority of Hungarians do not want immigration from outside Europe. He also elaborated saying that Hungary would solve its demographic problems and dwindling workforce with policies favoring higher subsidies for families with children.

As reported last month in The Sun Bay Paper, Hungary, along with several other European countries, is sponsoring a referendum planned for October against a plan by the European Union to resettle refugees and asylum seekers currently temporarily in Italy and Greece to other countries in the EU bloc.

Obama and the Clintons have been critical of Orban for what they have called “right wing authoritarianism” and have singled out the Hungarian crack down on preventing further resettlement of Muslim migrants. Obama has also said that Orban’s administration should give wider latitude to civic groups advocating for Roma or gay rights.

Orban has said some of these groups are "paid foreign activists," and that he does not put it past Soros to be behind these efforts in an attempt to prevent Hungary from maintaining its’ “national identity.” Orban cites a host of problems surfacing in the U.S. and other EU nations caused by overly liberal immigration policies that allow potential terrorists and economic migrants into wealthier Western nations.

A recent poll in Hungary shows that over 78% of Hungarians support Orban’s policies. Exit polling revealed that most citizens feel Muslims are “not integrating into Hungarian culture.”

Numerous recent news articles appearing in European newspapers have focused on the change of heart that is occurring in Europe saying that the “welcome mat for refugees has been withdrawn throughout Europe even in places where it was the strongest,” the articles also note the marked rise in support for political parties who “oppose immigration from the Middle East.”  

Published in Politics

Nestlé is by far the largest food company in the world. Its 335,000 employees produce more than 2,000 brands, manufactured in 436 factories across 85 countries. It’s Europe’s most valuable corporation, worth $240 billion, comfortably more than oil giant Royal Dutch Shell. Among the world’s 195 nations, it sells in 189.

Nestlé’s impact on the history of how we eat is almost impossible to overstate. Sweets as we know them wouldn’t exist without Henri Nestlé, the company’s founder, who in the late 19th century supplied condensed milk for the world’s first milk chocolate, made by a neighbor in Vevey, Switzerland. Nestlé scientists created the first instant coffee, Nescafé, just in time for World War II rations. Nestlé chocolate was in the first chocolate chip cookie.

The Nestlé food and drink empire, including San Pellegrino water and Stouffer’s frozen dinners, is built on a foundation of sugar. Butterfinger, Cookie Crisp, KitKat, and Oh Henry! are all Nestlé products. So are Drumstick sundae cones, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, and Nesquik chocolate milk. In 1988, Nestlé even bought the life-imitates-art candy brand that makes Laffy Taffy and Nerds: Willy Wonka.

The company’s headquarters, on Vevey’s Avenue Nestlé, is far from a psychedelic sugarscape out of Roald Dahl. The building, the biggest in town, is a high-modernist pile of aluminum and green-tinted glass that resembles an upscale hospital or a midsize intelligence agency. Up a spiral staircase of gleaming metal, offices have fairy-tale views of sparkling Lake Geneva and the mist-shrouded Alps beyond. The perspective testifies that for a century and a half, sugar has been sweet. It isn’t anymore. Sugar is joining tobacco and alcohol in the club of products in which governments have taken an interest. In March the U.K. followed Mexico in imposing a tax on sugary drinks in an effort to cut obesity. Saudi Arabia may follow. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is weighing far tougher rules for sugar labeling, and the latest edition of U.S. dietary recommendations contained the strictest guidance on sugar yet.

In a 2013 review of published research, scientists affiliated with France’s national scientific institute wrote that sugar and sweets “can not only substitute [for] addictive drugs, like cocaine, but can even be more rewarding and attractive.” Although sugar is “clearly not as behaviorally and psychologically toxic,” cravings for it can be just as intense, they said.

Sales in Nestlé’s confectionery business have fallen every year since 2012, matching declines of competitors. After assaults on sodium and saturated fats, some industry figures are wondering openly if Big Food is the next Big Tobacco, with all the destruction of value that would imply. At major food companies, “there’s complete paranoia,” says Lawrence Hutter, a consultant at Alvarez & Marsal in London who works with them. All the large food producers say they’re trying to reduce their financial dependence on sugar. In fleeing the storm, they’ve darted for varying types of cover. Coca-Cola has shrunk soda cans; Mondelēz International, the maker of Oreos, has become a power in the gluten-free movement; PepsiCo has tried shifting toward healthy-ish snacks such as hummus.

Nestlé has chosen a radically different path. It wants to invent and sell medicine. The products Nestlé wants to create would be based on ingredients derived from food and delivered as an appealing snack, not a pill, drawing on the company’s expertise in the dark arts of engineering food for looks, taste, and texture. Some would require a prescription, some would be over-the-counter, and some are already on store shelves today.

Nestlé’s goal is to redefine itself as a scientifically driven “nutrition, health, and wellness company,” the kind that can thrive in a world where regulators may look at Butterfingers not so differently from Benson & Hedges. If this vision is realized, a visit to the family doctor in a decade’s time might end with a prescription for a tasty Nestlé shake for heart trouble or a recommendation for an FDA-approved tea to strengthen aging joints. The company would expand from the vending machine and supermarket to the pharmacy, doctor’s office, and hospital. At the same time, it would keep its core food and sweets businesses. In other words, Nestlé would sell a problem with one hand and a remedy with the other.

Ed Baetge doesn’t touch any of Nestlé’s candy himself, except for a bit of dark chocolate from the high-end Cailler line, and even that only on the weekends. Nor does he much fit the template of the colorless Swiss company man. Next to his desk are a surfing calendar and a framed photo of a cobalt-blue wave cresting off Torrey Pines State Beach north of San Diego, where he grew up and still bodysurfs whenever he gets back to the U.S. When he makes a joke, he throws his head back into an earsplitting laugh and, a beat or two later, draws his hands into a single wide clap. In the land of the world’s finest timepieces, he wears a Mickey Mouse watch.

Baetge, 59, was hired in 2010 to run the newly formed Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences. His pharmaceutical bona fides are unimpeachable. After earning a Ph.D. in molecular neurobiology at Cornell in 1983, he worked at a series of biotech companies. He spent 2001 to 2010 at ViaCyte in San Diego, working on treatments for diabetes. When Nestlé came calling, asking Baetge to lead research into how food could be turned into marketable therapies, he was considering an offer to run a New York center for stem cell research, one of the sexiest areas of contemporary science. His medical colleagues were shocked when he said yes to Big Chocolate. “I was, like, in the hot seat for stem cells,” Baetge says. “They’d go, ‘You’re going from there to work on nutrition?’ ” Nestlé gave Baetge a 10-year budget of 500 million Swiss francs ($524 million).

Today, Baetge works in a narrow office, beneath an electronic whiteboard crammed with scribbled red notes, in Lausanne, a short drive up the lake from Vevey. On his desk are a Swiss army knife, bags of granola, and a half-dozen pill bottles. He’s collecting supplements such as cat’s-claw, a Peruvian vine purported to have antiviral properties, to test whether there’s anything to the claims.

More than 160 scientists from cell biology, gastrointestinal medicine, genomics, and other fields work for Baetge in two buildings here. One lab, on the scale of a child’s bedroom, is kept in near-permanent twilight so light-sensitive dyes can illuminate microscopic muscle fibers and the nerves that control them. In samples of young muscle, the nerves glow candy-apple red and connect to each fiber in tight circles of electric green. As tissue ages, the nerves turn spindly and faded. The more irregular the green, the worse the interface and control of the muscle—meaning more falls, weakness, and general decrepitude.

A second room, devoted to the brain, contains a laser-powered microscope the size and color of a small barbecue grill. Its job is to record, as often as 4,000 times a second, the activity of individual brain cells on lab slides. Healthy neurons, displayed in bubble-gum pink on a nearby monitor, are electrical dynamos that fire a never-ending cascade of signals. Researchers here are studying Alzheimer’s disease, which strangles neurons, blocking the links that allow the brain to function. Slowly those neurons go dark. No drug has managed to halt the progression.

Baetge argues that food could be the basis for an entirely new type of medication—both preventive treatments and therapies for acute disease. Drugs delivered as foodstuffs might, in his telling, blunt the impact of aging, ease the symptoms of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, and even slow declines in cognition. Food is cheap, plentiful, and familiar. It “really turns the pharmaceutical model on its head,” he says. “How do we activate the biggest drug that we take every day?”

Much of what’s being done at the institute is “just like pharma,” Baetge says. “They’re screening new chemical entities, and we’re screening natural products, especially ones that come from food,” such as extracts or purified molecules from mushrooms, tomatoes, and other plants. His team has built a library of more than 40,000 such compounds to try.

One dream achievement is personalization, using data on an individual’s diet and health history to design bespoke suites of agents that could be delivered in a capsule—imagine a Nespresso pod, perhaps, but for high cholesterol. Baetge also has the use of an array of gleaming genetic sequencing machines. Understanding the genetic factors that make some people lose or gain weight could allow Nestlé to sell slimming plans customized to an individual consumer’s genotype.

Nestle Targets Good Health in Food-Based Medicines

Greg Behar is another Nestlé executive who doesn’t eat too many KitKats. A champion swimmer who averages 20,000 steps a day on his Jawbone fitness tracker, he heads Nestlé Health Science, a subsidiary created alongside Baetge’s pure research arm and intended to commercialize its discoveries. Behar has a staff of more than 3,000 and a directive to develop “a new industry between food and pharmaceuticals.” The group has bought stakes in startups such as Accera, in Boulder, Colo., which makes a powdered shake it says may benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Behar says Nestlé Health Science has the potential to be a business with 10 billion francs in annual revenue. Even at the world’s biggest food company, that’s a lot. Confectionery sales totaled about 9 billion francs last year; an additional 15 billion came from milk products and ice cream; and powdered and liquid beverages, particularly coffee, accounted for about 19 billion.

Although research at Baetge’s institute hasn’t yet led to any actual products—something executives say will soon change—Nestlé Health Science has a stable of brands from its acquisitions and its own development work. The division already has about 2 billion francs of revenue per year from dozens of existing products. Among them are Betaquik, a milklike drink for people with epilepsy, among other conditions, and Meritene Regenervis, a flavored drink mix for fatigue and muscle function. For cancer patients, it sells Resource Support Plus, a high-protein drink available in soft vanilla and plum-mango. For the obese there’s Optifast, a line of shakes, soups, and snack bars intended to be taken under the supervision of a doctor. Some of the products are regulated as “medical foods” by the FDA.

Behar, 46, joined Nestlé in 2014 from German pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim. Sipping a bottle of Vittel water (another company brand), he happily lays out his workout routine. He trains for at least an hour every morning, hitting the pool at 6 a.m. and biking more than 180 miles a week. He competes in seven or eight triathlons a year, and he holds the Swiss record for his age group in the 200-meter backstroke. He was one of the first adopters of the Jawbone band, in part because his brother is Yves Béhar, the industrial designer responsible for its look. Ever on message, he credits some of his vitality to a daily shot of Regenervis. “It’s just a sachet, and you mix it with water,” he says. “It’s a much better feeling than taking a pill.”

Behar says many more products are on the way, for mobility, gastrointestinal health, and the brain, among other areas. Probiotics, or so-called good bacteria for the gut, and mixes of proteins and vitamins for joints and bones are areas of focus. A final-stage clinical trial is planned on a “food-based treatment” for Crohn’s disease. There will also be “innovation fairly quickly in cognitive function: memory, mood, anxiety. In these areas we are right now developing products,” he says.

For the most part, the concepts Nestlé is working on won’t appear in the marketplace as, say, a few extra ingredients in a Crunch bar. “If you find something really breakthrough and just sprinkle it in your yogurt, good luck getting a few more cents for it,” says Wolfgang Reichenberger, a former Nestlé chief financial officer. He’s now at Inventages, a venture capital fund focused on the junction of food and health, in which Nestlé is a major investor. Instead, Nestlé plans to sell its developments primarily as standalone medical products, which command higher margins and face less competition than supermarket foods.

If making consumers fat has been big business, making them healthy could be bigger. The pharmaceutical industry is worth $1 trillion a year and growing. Despite the scale of the potential rewards, the financial world isn’t quite sure what to make of Nestlé’s categorical leap. Introducing an in-depth report on the transformation in January, consumer analysts at France’s Exane BNP Paribas said they “are not pharma experts” and needed to bone up on the business with colleagues. The next month, Credit Suisse analysts fretted that Nestlé could be straying too far from its core, with little clarity on how competitive it will be “should Big Pharma choose to lock horns.”

That assumes Nestlé can even get its new products past government agencies. The fuzzy border of food and drugs, taking in ill-defined categories such as “functional foods” and “nutraceuticals,” is dominated by pseudoscientific supplements of dubious health benefit, often just a step ahead of regulators. In 2013 the FDA warned Accera, one of Nestlé’s new partners, that it considered the company’s Axona drink to be an “unapproved new drug,” giving ammunition to plaintiffs seeking a class-action suit who argued they’d been duped into thinking it would ameliorate Alzheimer’s. The suit was settled out of court; Accera says it responded to the FDA’s concerns and Axona remains available, though Accera has since turned to more traditional drug development.

Many doctors and health activists are intensely skeptical of nutritional aids of all kinds, and a company that’s essentially domiciled in Candyland might not be the ideal candidate to change their mind. After all, one of the best things many people could do for their body would be to eat far less of what Nestlé has spent more than a century selling. “We have known for decades what people should be eating to be healthy, and that’s a balanced diet of whole foods,” says Mark Schatzker, the author of The Dorito Effect, a 2015 book about the science of food. (His brother, Erik Schatzker, works for Bloomberg Television.) “When it comes to basic nutrition, magic pills and magic drinks have never worked.” He adds: “Generally speaking, the more we mess with food, the more we screw it up.”

ExxonMobil aside, it would be hard to name a corporation that’s attracted as much all-time negative attention from environmental and human-rights activists over the years as Nestlé. Beginning in the 1970s, campaigners accused the company of using overly aggressive marketing to persuade mothers to buy baby formula instead of breast-feeding. They pointed to sometimes tragic results, with mothers mixing formula with contaminated water to stretch their supply, thus sickening or killing their infants. The resulting boycotts and protests lasted into the 2000s and shaped the views of a generation of activists. More recently, Greenpeace introduced a withering campaign that accused Nestlé of contributing to the destruction of rain forests, and the animals living in them, by buying from unscrupulous palm oil plantations. A viral video showed a KitKat wrapper being opened to reveal an orangutan’s severed finger, and protesters infiltrated the company’s 2010 annual general meeting, hiding in the rafters to unfurl banners.

Now, Nestlé says it believes “breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants” and that it conforms to World Health Organization guidelines on formula marketing; it also agreed to stop buying palm oil from plantations linked to deforestation. Wanting to be seen as a more responsible actor, Chief Executive Officer Paul Bulcke has set a variety of objectives in categories such as reducing carbon emissions, increasing the welfare of farmers, and conserving water. The effort is backed by an extensive public-relations campaign, and an annual progress report, Creating Shared Value, runs to more than 300 pages.

The company’s clear preoccupation, though, is with rebutting the charge of complicity in soaring obesity rates. Nestlé says it’s gradually reducing sugar, salt, and saturated fat where it can and trying to help children learn “to balance good nutrition with an active lifestyle.” It’s rolled out lower-sugar versions of cereals such as Cheerios, and some boxes of Smarties are separated into three cardboard compartments of 15 candies each to nudge consumers toward eating less.

Nestlé’s health efforts will still have to contend with a jumbo tub of skepticism filled to the brim by past battles. “I cannot believe there’s any food product that really improves health,” says Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, who’s tried to measure the health effects of ingredients claimed to have disease-fighting properties. Instead, Sattar says, the most surefire way to ameliorate many serious public-health challenges would be for people simply to eat a lot less. That, of course, translates directly into money lost for food companies.

Eager to show there’s a solid basis for its ideas, Nestlé has built a 33,000-square-foot suite for human clinical trials in Lausanne, decorated in a minimalist style that calls to mind a Scandinavian airport terminal; it was certified as a health facility by the local authorities. It’s run by Maurice Beaumont, a jovial former French Air Force doctor who studied slow-release caffeine for military pilots. (One of the challenges was delivering a decent jolt without too much of a diuretic effect in bathroom-free cockpits.) He’s particularly proud of a homemade “indirect calorimeter,” a gadget that looks like a pool lounger encased in Plexiglas, festooned with valves and sensors, and measures the energy burn and oxygen consumption of the typically overweight person inside.

The irony of Nestlé studying obesity remedies is about as subtle as the glucose load of Nesquik cereal, which has 25 grams of sugar in a 100-gram serving. Although the company’s efforts are commendable, it’s “selling products on one side that might contribute to these illnesses,” says Leith Greenslade, head of the nongovernmental organization JustActions. “On the other side, they’re finding treatments for these illnesses. Some might call that a conflict of interest.”

Stefan Catsicas is the elegant embodiment of Nestlé’s conviction that there’s no conflict. A quadrilingual Swiss neuroscientist who became chief technology officer in 2013 after a career in pharma and academia, his office in Vevey drips with good taste. A triptych of abstract color-block paintings faces a meeting table laden with Nespresso-branded chocolates and bottles of Vittel and San Pellegrino. There’s a single purple orchid and, on the floor, a gift bag of Cailler chocolate. On a spectacularly sunny Friday morning, Catsicas wears a blue-and-white-checked shirt with a blue tie, navy blazer, and gray trousers. His lightly accented English is crisp, and his media training impeccable.

“Sugar is not addictive,” Catsicas says. “You get habituated to sugar, which is not being addicted.” Shortly after he came to Nestlé, Catsicas gradually put less sugar in his morning coffee, cutting out about 10 percent at a time. Within three months, he says proudly, he was taking it black. In an hourlong disquisition on Nestlé’s efforts to make its core products healthier while also venturing into medicine, Catsicas says the company badly wants to “be part of the solution” to obesity. That desire, he argues, reflects evolving scientific understanding. “Ten years ago, my predecessor could have said we didn’t really know” about the scale of the problem, he says. Now, “everybody knows that there is an issue.”

Who knew what and when may be a subject of more than academic concern. “If a class-action group of lawyers can determine that food companies have known just how toxic sugar levels are, they will do what they’ve done to the tobacco industry,” says Peter Jones, a nutritional scientist at the University of Manitoba.

Catsicas rejects the comparison to cigarettes, swiftly countering that although there’s no such thing as a safe cigarette, there’s certainly safe food. In his narrative, even though Big Food needs to do better, it’s been unfairly tarred with responsibility in a complex debate over diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Besides, he says, it’s ultimately up to individuals to make healthy choices. And if they should happen to get sick, Nestlé wants to be there for them.

 

Published in Business
The ongoing poaching of the oldest and wisest female forest elephants could cause cascading harmful effects on the integrity of entire rainforest ecosystems, new research shows. These “ecosystem engineers” maintain the habitats on which many other plant and animal species depend .
Scientists working with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Stirling, and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants warn that the present high levels of “poaching forest elephants will result in a loss of the oldest, wisest matriarchs, who are living libraries of their vast rainforest domain.”
 
Elephant mothers and young on the move in Amboseli National Park, Feb. 2012 (Photo by Diana Robinson)
The oldest females guide and teach their young where to go for food and minerals, what to eat, how to process tricky foods, and how to avoid danger. Without these mothers, forest elephant social lives and their understanding of their ecosystem will be lost, the scientists conclude in a new online article in the journal “Conservation Biology.”
The essay, entitled “Consequences for elephants and forests: poaching and anthropogenic change,” appears in the online version of Conservation Biology. The authors are: Thomas Breuer of the Wildlife Conservation Society based at the Bronx Zoo; Fiona Maisels of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the UK’s University of Stirling; and Dr. Vicki Fishlock of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants and the University of Stirling.
“We’ve been aware of the catastrophic decline of forest elephants since 2013,” said WCS conservationist Dr. Thomas Breuer, lead author of the essay. “But, as with savannah elephants, the impacts are greatest when we lose the matriarchs.”
Scientists conducting long-term studies on savannah elephants have documented many, and long-lasting, effects of poaching and other human disruptions on their behavior.
Savannah elephants exposed to poaching become more nocturnal and more skittish outside of the protected areas, where more and more elephants crowd together, say the scientists. The forests there become degraded as many more elephants graze and browse on the foliage.
The loss to poachers of older individuals, both male and female, destabilizes the population socially and robs other elephants of the survival skills of the most experienced members, the scientists conclude.
Breuer and his co-authors say forest elephants are probably experiencing, and causing, the same behavioral and ecological changes in their ecosystems as savannah elephants.
Forest elephants disperse the seeds of many plant and tree species, maintain trail systems and natural forest clearings, and distribute and renew soil nutrients across enormous areas. Their role as ecosystem engineers maintains the habitats on which many other plant and animal species depend.
In 1968, Cynthia Moss began to study elephants in northern Tanzania with Iain Douglas-Hamilton. Four years later, with Harvey Croze, she found ideal conditions for studying elephants in Amboseli National Park.
Since 1972, the Amboseli Elephant Research Project has monitored the Amboseli Park elephants, identifying all the individuals in the population and gathering data on births, deaths and behavior.
Today Moss’s work is the world’s longest-running study of wild elephants, documenting the lives and deaths of almost 3,000 elephants. The Amboseli Elephant Research Project is now a hub for research collaboration and training.
One of the of the longest-studied populations of free-living large mammals in the world, the AERP is a critical source for baseline data on elephants.
“Ensuring the survival of the elephant in today’s Africa is an increasingly complex problem. The ivory trade – legal and illegal – and the tremendous increase in human population in Africa have taken a serious toll,” say the authors.
In 1979, there were estimated to be 1.3 million elephants in Africa; 10 years later, there were only about 600,000. In Kenya alone, the elephant population dropped from 130,000 in 1973 to less than 20,000 in 1989 – loss of 85 percent.
The elephant population in Amboseli National Park is one of the few that has been able to live relatively undisturbed in natural conditions. This rare situation is due to the presence of researchers and tourists in the park, and the support of the local Maasai people.
In the absence of poaching and culling, the Amboseli elephant population has been increasing slowly since the late 1970s. Amboseli is, therefore, one of the few places in Africa where the elephant age structure has not been drastically skewed and the population spans the whole range from newborn calves to old matriarchs in their 60s and, even more unusual, many large adult bulls in their 40s and 50s.
“We should assume that these disruptions of forest elephant society and rainforest ecology are occurring, and that these assumptions need incorporation into conservation planning,” said Dr. Fishlock, a resident scientist at Amboseli since January 2011.
Leadership and negotiation in the face of risk is her focus and social disruption and recovery in elephant families after the area’s terrible drought in 2009 .
The guardians of their community’s forest and social knowledge, elephant matriarchs guide their families to crucial resources – water in savannahs or scarce fruiting trees in rainforests – and hold decades of geographical and social knowledge.
Environmental News Service (ENS) 2016
Published in Environment
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