Thursday, January 19, 2012

Walken on the Wild Things

Read with such insight.

"...bear strung up, I assume murdered. Maybe suicide, I don't know."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pepsi Says Mountain Dew Can Dissolve Mouse Carcasses

Jasper Nance via Flickr

(The Atlantic Wire) Pepsi Co., facing a lawsuit from a man who claims to have found a mouse in his Mountain Dew can, has an especially creative, if disgusting, defense: their soda would have dissolved a dead mouse before the man could have found it. An Illinois man sued Pepsi in 2009 after he claims he "spat out the soda to reveal a dead mouse," the Madison County Record reports. He claims he sent the mouse to Pepsi, which then "destroyed" the remains after he allowed them to test it, according to his complaint. Most shudder-worthy, however, is that Pepsi's lawyers also found experts to testify, based on the state of the remains sent to them, that "the mouse would have dissolved in the soda had it been in the can from the time of its bottling until the day the plaintiff drank it," according to the Record. (It would have become a "jelly-like substance," according to Pepsi, adds LegalNewsline.) This seems like a winning-the-battle-while-surrendering-the-war kind of strategy that hinges on the argument that Pepsi's product is essentially a can of bright green/yellow battery acid. The lawyers still appear to be lawyering behind the scenes but we cannot wait for this to come to trial (though we think a trial is about as likely as the chances of us "Doing the Dew" ever again).

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Facing Cocoa Shortage, Swiss Chocolate Makers Aim To Boost African Production

Famous for its chocolate production, Switzerland relies on Ghana for half its supply of cocoa beans, even as the West African nation now focuses on other export products. A new public-private Swiss partnership aims to inject new life into cocoa bean farming.

By Kaspar Meuli
LE TEMPS/Worldcrunch

SUHUM – It was one year ago that Ghana’s president John Atta Mills announced the country's first-ever launch of an oil platform. The December 15, 2010 pomp-filled ceremony, in front of television cameras, marked Ghana's arrival among the ranks of oil producers. Experts say that was also a bad day for the country’s cacao producers, as the raw material -- a traditional Ghanaian export -- would no longer get the attention or investment necessary to be sustainable.

The situation was particularly disquieting to Swiss chocolate makers as Ghana is their most important supplier. More than half of the cacao beans transformed into chocolate in Switzerland come from the Western African nation. “Cacao consumption goes up globally by 2% to 3% annually, and that rhythm has been sustained even during crisis periods,” says Kamillo Kitzmantel, General Manager of Lindt & Spr√ľngli Suisse. “Supply can’t meet demand, as new suppliers like Vietnam or the Philippines have yet to show that they can deliver the required quality levels.”

The Ghana Cocoa Board, a state-run organization that promotes cacao bean production, says that local trees have become too old, threatening to make harvests even more meager. If the 2011 harvest set a record it was only because of exceptionally favorable weather. And beyond the neglect of tree renewal initiatives, there is also a looming shortage of farmers. The average age of cacao farmers is around 55 years old – in a country where life expectancy is 58.

The face of such threats to its top supplier, Switzerland has stepped in with a private pilot project that is receiving Swiss government support. “We show farmers how they can earn money by growing cacao,” Yayra Glover explains. “The first step is to get the farmers to feel proud of their production. In Switzerland, there are buyers ready to pay above market price if cacao is produced without child labor or the use of chemical products.”

The Ghanaian entrepreneur lived in Switzerland for more than 20 years, then decided to return to Ghana to take up sustainable cacao farming. He is now located in Suhum, in the eastern part of the country, working with 2,500 small farmers who grow cacao organically.

Distribution chains and chocolate

Glover’s initiative was possible thanks to his close partnership with Pakka, a Zurich-based company specialized in the development of fair trade for organic produce from southern countries. Pakka also sells products like nuts, dried fruit – and cacao.

“Producers in southern countries can’t get into the European market on their own,” says Balz Strasser, Pakka’s general manager. “We support them by building the necessary networks and distribution chains.”

Part of the organic cacao from Ghana is thus delivered to Max Felchlin AG, a company in the canton (district) of Schwyz that provides chocolate makers and restaurants with semi-finished chocolate products.

A little more than four years on, the project has cost 1.3 million Swiss francs ($1.38 million). Nearly half (47%) came from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The private sector (notably Pakka and Max Felchlin AG) and non-governmental organizations in Ghana came up with the rest.

The example of Yayra Glover may inspire others. The Economic Cooperation and Development division of SECO foresees geographic expansion into the Volta region in the southeast. This would also be a way of stemming rural exodus. Several of Glover’s young employees come from Accra, where they graduated from university. Today, they are dedicated to farming cacao. “I’ve bought some land of my own, and have put in some baby plants,” says Samuel Quaque, a manager at Glover’s company. “I imagine my future on a plantation, not in a city.”

Read the original article in French

Photo – Benketaro

Monkey stolen from California zoo found safe

Banana-Sam, who was stolen from the San Francisco Zoo, was found Saturday safe, but hungry, officials said.

(CNN) -- Banana-Sam, a much-loved squirrel-monkey stolen from his enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo, has been safely returned, officials said.

The monkey was found Saturday night -- a day after he disappeared from the zoo -- at a park by a passer-by who spotted the primate in the bushes, the San Francisco Police Department said in a statement.

The passer-by coaxed the monkey from the bushes into his backpack, and then called the authorities, according to the statement.

Police officers brought the monkey to the zoo, where officials determined it was the missing primate.

"Although hungry, trembling and thirsty, Banana-Sam is currently safe back," the zoo said in a statement.

Zoo workers discovered the theft Friday morning, when they found a back perimeter gate had been breached and two holes cut in the mesh fence of the squirrel monkey exhibit.

The male monkey, known as Banana-Sam to his keepers, is age 17, over 12 inches tall and weighs about 2 lbs. Corrine MacDonald, the curator of primates and carnivores, told CNN affiliate KGO earlier Saturday that squirrel monkeys can live into their 20s, saying his relatively advanced age could put him at more risk.

Banana Sam' keepers warned the public that while he looks very cute, he is not a pet -- and can deliver a nasty nip. The curator said such monkeys carry diseases and can cause serious infections if they bite a human.

The monkey needs a specialized diet to stay healthy, the zoo says.

What motivated the thieves to swipe the monkey is not clear. Common squirrel monkeys are not endangered, and they can be found at pet trade markets -- with such sales illegal in California, the zoo says -- or medical research institutions.

MacDonald said the zoo's other squirrel monkeys were visibly shaken by Banana-Sam's apparent capture. She said the decision was made to pull them off the exhibit due to concerns about the integrity of the exhibit and that a "copy-cat" could try to take other monkeys.

It was not immediately known when the zoo planned to reopen the exhibit.

An unknown person was quick to set up a fake Twitter account in Banana-Sam's name, following in the path of a cobra that escaped at New York's Bronx Zoo in March. The snake's mock Twitter account, with humorous tweets on its supposed whereabouts in New York City, swiftly attracted a large online following.

Under the handle @SF_BananaSam, the "monkey" is now tweeting his way round San Francisco.

"Went to monkey bars in Golden Gate Park playground, left disappointed. #nobananadaiquiri" one post reads.

Another says: "I'm a funny-looking vegan who ran away from home and who people follow on Twitter. IN other words, A NORMAL SAN FRANCISCAN."