Venezuelans Irritated by Short Supply of Cerveceria Polar Beer

(p. 5A) CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelans are facing the prospect of a heat wave without their favorite beer, the latest indignity in a country that has seen shortages of everything from disposable diapers to light bulbs.
Cerveceria Polar, which distributes 80 percent of the beer in the socialist South American country, began shutting down breweries this week because of a lack of barley, hops and other raw materials, and has halted deliveries to Caracas liquor stores.
“This is never-never land,” said Yefferson Ramirez, who navigated a rush of disgruntled customers Thursday behind the counter at a corner store in posh eastern Caracas. The shop has been out of milk and bottled water for months, but the beer shortfall is provoking a new level of irritation.

For the full story, see:
Associated Press. “Venezuela’s top beer scarce amid heat wave.” Omaha World-Heraldl (Sat., Aug. 8, 2015): 5A.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 7, 2015.)

Venezeuelan Socialists Seize Warehouses of Cerveceria Polar Beer

PolarWorkersProtestSocialistsSeizingProperty.jpg “Polar workers protested the government’s decision to expropriate warehouse land in Caracas on Thursday [July 30, 2015].” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A7) CARACAS, Venezuela–The government ordered major food companies, including units of PepsiCo and Nestlé Inc., to evacuate warehouses in an area where the state plans to expropriate land to build low-cost housing.
. . .
Manuel Larrazábal, a director at Polar, said he hoped the government would reconsider the measure. “We don’t doubt that they need to construct housing, which is so important, but we ask why it has to affect active industrial facilities.”
. . .
Some workers painted messages including “No to expropriation” and “Let us work” onto the walls of the industrial park and on dozens of trucks that lined the streets outside, which were blocked by police and National Guard. Polar said the move would affect some 600 workers, as well as 1,400 employees who transport their goods around Caracas and two neighboring states.
. . .
Polar suspended operations at its facility after getting the order Wednesday night. The expropriation order extends a history of shaky relations between it and the government, which began under the late leader Hugo Chávez and continues under his protégé, Mr. Maduro.
In recent months, the company, which is the largest beer maker in Venezuela, said it had to halt work at several plants and breweries due to labor strife. It has also struggled with difficulties in acquiring raw materials and U.S. dollars to pay overseas suppliers, a process controlled by the government due to complicated currency regulations.

For the full story, see:
KEJAL VYAS . “Venezuela Takeover Order Riles Companies; Maduro’s government wants industrial zone to build housing for poor.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 31, 2015): A7.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 30, 2015.)

Obama Praises Koch Brothers for Supporting Criminal Justice Reforms

(p. A1) Once known for grim letters to fellow wealthy Americans warning of socialist apocalypse, Charles G. Koch now promotes research on the link between freedom and everyday happiness. Turn on “The Big Bang Theory” or “Morning Joe,” and you are likely to see soft-focus television spots introducing some of the many employees of Koch Industries.
Instead of trading insults with Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, Mr. Koch and his brother, David H. Koch, are trading compliments with President Obama, who this month praised the Kochs’ support for criminal justice reform at a meeting of the N.A.A.C.P.
. . .
(p. A17) . . ., the Kochs have made cause with prominent liberals to change federal sentencing rules, which disproportionately affect African-Americans, while a Koch-backed nonprofit, the Libre Initiative, offers driving lessons and tax preparation services to Latinos.
. . .
The brothers are sensitive to criticism that they are recent converts to issues like criminal justice. Mark Holden, the general counsel of Koch Industries, said the company had become active in defendants’ rights back in the 1990s, after four employees at a Texas refinery were snared in what the company viewed as an overzealous prosecution of federal clean air and hazardous waste laws. The company and family have long donated to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Mr. Holden said, as well as to the United Negro College Fund and other charities.
“Charles obviously is a classical liberal, who believes in the Bill of Rights, and limited but necessary government,” Mr. Holden said. “If those are your guideposts, criminal justice reform is where you need to be.”
. . .
Michael L. Lomax, the president of the United Negro College Fund, said in an interview that any political dimension to the giving was not his concern.
“My focus is very narrow: Is this program working for our students?” said Dr. Lomax, adding, “I don’t really get very involved in the critics.”
. . .
Civil libertarians have also sought the company out as a partner. Mr. Holden has made several trips to the White House, striking up a partnership with Valerie Jarrett, one of Mr. Obama’s top advisers. “People are pulling us in because we can be helpful,” Mr. Holden said.

For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE. “‘Koch Brothers Brave Spotlight to Alter Image.” The New York Time (Fri., JULY 31, 2015): A1 & A17.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 30, 2015, and has the title “‘Koch Brothers Brave Spotlight to Try to Alter Their Image.”)

“A Collective Thumbing of the Nose at” Burma’s Dictatorship

(p. A9) For a young man born in a premodern dictatorship, Nway appeared to have it all. The son of a physician, he grew up in the town of Twantay, Burma, with the comforts typically reserved for the country’s military elite. He dreamed of becoming a doctor and raising a family of his own.
That all changed one night after the abortive elections of 1990, when Nway’s father, a supporter of the democracy movement, was arrested on unnamed charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison. There, he was kept in solitary confinement and endured routine beatings, interrogations and mock suffocations until he died of “complications of the liver” in October 1996.
Nway’s father was gone but not forgotten: His awza, or influence, lives on. Inspired by his father’s legacy, Nway dropped out of medical school and devoted his life to bringing liberal democracy to Burma.
. . .
At one point in the book, Nway is pursued by the “dogs” of Burma’s security forces and happens upon some old acquaintances at a beer den. The friends swallow their fear and summon passersby to help protect him. They sit down, building “a fort around Nway” in “a collective thumbing of the nose at the Special Branch police” until he is able to slip away on a motorbike.
For Ms. Schrank, this anecdote embodies the philosophy that ultimately makes the dissidents’ appeal to the people of Burma successful. In her final chapter she notes that it has now become “cool” to tie across your forehead a strip of cloth with the sign of the NLD and support the party “that only months before had belonged to the underground students and come most often with a one-way ticket to prison.”

For the full review, see:
NICHOLAS DESATNICK. “BOOKSHELF; Freedom Fighters; To understand how Burma’s military junta began coming apart at the seams, you need to meet this band of ‘oddballs and dreamers.'” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 31, 2015): A9.
(Note: ellipsis added, italics in original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 30, 2015.)

The book under review, is:
Schrank, Delphine. The Rebel of Rangoon: A Tale of Defiance and Deliverance in Burma. New York: Nation Books, 2015.

Increasing Recalls of Organic Food Due to Bacterial Contamination

(p. B3) New data collected by Stericycle, a company that handles recalls for businesses, shows a sharp jump in the number of recalls of organic food products.
Organic food products accounted for 7 percent of all food units recalled so far this year, compared with 2 percent of those recalled last year, according to data from the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture that Stericycle uses to compile its quarterly report on recalls.
In 2012 and 2013, only 1 percent of total units of food recalled were organic.
Kevin Pollack, a vice president at Stericycle, said the growing consumer and corporate demand for organic ingredients was at least partly responsible for the increase.
“What’s striking is that since 2012, all organic recalls have been driven by bacterial contamination, like salmonella, listeria and hepatitis A, rather than a problem with a label,” Mr. Pollack said. “This is a fairly serious and really important issue because a lot of consumers just aren’t aware of it.”

For the full story, see:
STEPHANIE STROM. “Private Analysis Shows a Sharp Increase in the Number of Organic Food Recalls.” The New York Times (Fri., Aug. 21, 2015): B3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 20, 2015, and has the title “Recalls of Organic Food on the Rise, Report Says.” The last paragraph quoted above differs in the print and online versions; the version quoted is the print version. The online version of the paragraph is: “According to Stericycle, 87 percent of organic recalls since 2012 were for bacterial contamination, like salmonella and listeria, rather than a problem with a label. “This is a fairly serious and really important issue because a lot of consumers just aren’t aware of it,” Mr. Pollack said.”)

Disneyland “Immersed the Viewer in the Story Itself”

(p. A11) On July 17, 1955, about 28,000 people (roughly half of whom had been sold counterfeit tickets) walked, for the first time, through the gates of Disneyland and into history. To say it didn’t go smoothly would be an understatement: The temperature was 101 degrees (hot, even for Southern California) and difficulties with both the plumbing system and the labor unions made it impossible for anyone to get a drink. Only a handful of the rides and attractions were open at all, and most of those were continually breaking down and closing. Even the animals–the horses and mules in the Wild West attractions–refused to cooperate. That walk may have been historic, but it was made even more difficult by all the asphalt–poured only a few hours earlier–that kept sticking to everyone’s shoes.
. . .
With Disneyland, Walt Disney took the concept of narrative to the extreme: Rather than merely showing the viewer a story, even with the heightened naturalism of sound, color and a combination of cartoon characters and real actors, the theme park actually immersed the viewer in the story itself.
. . .
Walt Disney–who famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world”–would be pleased that in the half century since his death, his creation has been constantly tinkered with. Although very little remains of the park that opened in 1955, he would still recognize it, and love it.

For the full commentary, see:
WILL FRIEDWALD. “CULTURAL COMMENTARY; Finding Disneyland; Celebrating 60 Years of Disneyland, a Park that Was ahead of Its Time.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 15, 2015): D5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 14, 2015, and has the title “CULTURAL COMMENTARY; Celebrating 60 Years of Disneyland; In honor of Disneyland’s 60th birthday, a look back at a park that was ahead of its time.”)

Fire Cooked Carbohydrates Fed Bigger Brains

(p. D5) Scientists have long recognized that the diets of our ancestors went through a profound shift with the addition of meat. But in the September issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology, researchers argue that another item added to the menu was just as important: carbohydrates, bane of today’s paleo diet enthusiasts. In fact, the scientists propose, by incorporating cooked starches into their diet, our ancestors were able to fuel the evolution of our oversize brains.
. . .
Cooked meat provided increased protein, fat and energy, helping hominins grow and thrive. But Mark G. Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London, and his colleagues argue that there was another important food sizzling on the ancient hearth: tubers and other starchy plants.
Our bodies convert starch into glucose, the body’s fuel. The process begins as soon as we start chewing: Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase, which begins to break down starchy foods.
Amylase doesn’t work all that well on raw starches, however; it is much more effective on cooked foods. Cooking makes the average potato about 20 times as digestible, Dr. Thomas said: “It’s really profound.”
. . .
Dr. Thomas and his colleagues propose that the invention of fire, not farming, gave rise to the need for more amylase. Once early humans started cooking starchy foods, they needed more amylase to unlock the precious supply of glucose.
Mutations that gave people extra amylase helped them survive, and those mutations spread because of natural selection. That glucose, Dr. Thomas and his colleagues argue, provided the fuel for bigger brains.

For the full story, see:
Carl Zimmer. “MATTER; For Evolving Brains, a ‘Paleo’ Diet of Carbs.” The New York Times (Tues., AUG. 18, 2015): D5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 13, 2015.)

The academic article summarized in the passages above, is:
Hardy, Karen, Jennie Brand-Miller, Katherine D. Brown, Mark G. Thomas, and Les Copeland. “The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution.” The Quarterly Review of Biology 90, no. 3 (Sept. 2015): 251-68.