Locally Sourced Chipotle’s Swift, Severe and Surprising Fall from Grace

(p. B1) Chipotle emphasizes fresh, locally sourced ingredients. It was the first major chain to reject genetically modified food. Chipotle has embodied the notion of doing well by doing good.
So it may not be too surprising that its fall from grace has been swift and severe.
Since July, when five customers became ill with the E. coli bacterium after eating at a Chipotle restaurant in Seattle — the first food-borne illness connected to the chain since 2009 — Chipotle has been confronted by a rash of outbreaks. At least six incidents have occurred over the last six months.
“I’ve been involved in every food-borne illness outbreak, small and large, since 1993,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based lawyer who specializes in representing victims of food-borne illnesses and has filed several recent cases against Chipotle. “I can’t think of any chain, restaurant or food manufacturer who’s ever reported that many outbreaks in just six months. Underlying that has to be a lack of controls.”

For the full story, see:
JAMES B. STEWART. “Common Sense; New Chipotle Mantra: Safe (and Fresh) Food.” The New York Times (Fri., JAN. 15, 2016): B1 & B4.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 14, 2016, and has the title “Common Sense; Chipotle’s New Mantra: Safe Food, Not Just Fresh.”)

Japan Population Down a Million in Five Year Period

(p. A12) TOKYO — Japan’s population shrank by nearly a million during the last half-decade, official census figures confirmed on Friday [February 26, 2016], an unprecedented drop for a society not ravaged by war or other deadly crisis, and one that helps explain the country’s persistent economic woes.
It was the first time since Japan began collecting census data in 1920 that a nationwide count recorded a decline in the population, though surveys based on smaller samples have shown a downward trend for years.

For the full story, see:
JONATHAN SOBLE. “Japan Lost Nearly a Million People in 5 Years, Census Says.” The New York Times (Sat., FEB. 27, 2016): A12.
(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 26, 2016.)

Greek Corruption, Fraud, Evasion and Public Worker Job Security

(p. A11) Mr. Angelos, a former Journal correspondent, travels through Greece as a journalist first, and a native son second, to conduct a mostly unpleasant archaeology. By way of background, however, he first tackles the pervasive issues of disability and pension fraud, rampant tax evasion, and public worker job protections. These are the very problems that Greece’s European lenders sought to remedy through a series of supposedly helpful but also punitive and ineptly administered reforms. Mr. Angelos dismantles the facile narrative accepted by many in the eurozone, in which hardworking Germans must clean up a mess made by their lazy and “Oriental” southern neighbors. But he is equally tenacious when it comes to exposing the misconduct of Greek politicians, not to mention the country’s corrupt system of career tenure and its, well, truly Byzantine bureaucracy.
Mr. Angelos’s book allows us to see how these problems play out, sometimes farcically, in the lives of actual people. There’s a cranky grandmother on the island of Zakynthos who receives generous blindness benefits even though she can see perfectly well. There’s the arrogant former prime minister who accepted millions of euros in bribes to buy useless submarines on behalf of the Greek government.
. . .
. . . the book’s single most flattering portrait is of Yiannis Boutaris, the tattooed, wine-making, freethinking mayor of Thessaloniki, who courts Turkish tourism, refuses to kowtow to the church and publicly acknowledges the crucial role of Jews in the city’s history.

For the full review, see:

CHRISTOPHER BAKKEN. “BOOKSHELF; How Greece Got to ‘No’; On the island of Zakynthos, a grandmother receives generous blindness benefits–even though she can see perfectly well.”The Wall Street Journal (Tues., July 7, 2015): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 6, 2015.)

The book under review, is:
Angelos, James. The Full Catastrophe: Travels among the New Greek Ruins. New York: Crown Publishers, 2015.

Ugly, Invasive, Depressing Federal LEDs Disrupt Sleep and Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

(p. B1) In my repellently contented middle age, I don’t seek blue light. Like most sane people, I spurn restaurants whose lighting glares. I recoil from mirrors under fluorescent tubes. I switch on an overhead only to track down a water bug while wielding a flip-flop. Yet each evening from March onward, in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I live part of the year, it seems as if the overhead is always on.
Along with other parts of South Brooklyn, Windsor Terrace is an early recipient of the Department of Transportation’s new light-emitting diode streetlights. New Yorkers who have not yet been introduced to these lights: We are living in your future.
Our new street “lamps” — too cozy a word for the icy arrays now screaming through our windows — are meant to be installed across all five boroughs by 2017. Indeed, any resident of an American municipality that has money problems (and what city doesn’t?) should take heed.
In interviews with the media, my fellow experimental subjects have compared the nighttime environment under the new streetlights to a film set, a prison yard, “a strip mall in outer space” and “the mother ship coming in for a landing” in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Although going half-blind at 58, I can read by the beam that the new lamp blasts into our front room without tapping our own Con Ed service. Once the LEDs went in, our next-door neighbor began walking her dog at night in sunglasses.
Medical research has firmly established that blue-spectrum LED light can disrupt sleep patterns. This is the same illumination that radiates in far smaller doses from smartphone and computer screens, to which we’re advised to avoid exposure for at least an hour before bed, because it can suppress the production of melatonin. . . .
While the same light has also been associated with increased risk of breast cancer and mood disorders, in all honesty my biggest beef with LEDs has nothing to do with health issues. These lights are ugly. They’re invasive. They’re depressing. New York deserves better.
. . .
Even fiscally and environmentally conscientious California has compromised on this point. Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco have all opted for yellow-rich LEDs. These cities have willingly made the modest 10-15 percent sacrifice in efficiency for an ambience that more closely embodies what Germans call Gemütlichkeit and Danes call hygge: an atmosphere of hospitality, homeyness, intimacy and well-being.
. . .
As currently conceived, the D.O.T.’s streetlight plan amounts to mass civic vandalism. If my focus on aesthetics makes this issue sound trivial, the sensory experience of daily life is not a frivolous matter. Even in junior high school, I understood that lighting isn’t only about what you see, but how you feel.

For the full commentary, see:
LIONEL SHRIVER. “Ruining That Moody Urban Glow.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., OCT. 18, 2015): 5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date OCT. 17, 2015.)

Working for Uber Allows Flexibility for Aspiring Actors

(p. 8) Not long ago, being a waiter at the Ivy or a salesman at Fred Segal was considered the reliable way to earn a living until one got a big break in a Wes Anderson film and got picked up by a major Hollywood agency like CAA or WME.
But Krystal Harris, 27, an actress who appeared in the recent Kevin Hart film “About Last Night,” quickly realized those sorts of jobs were overrated. So now she works primarily for Lyft.
“I was a lead hostess at three different restaurants,” Ms. Harris said. “It really didn’t allow for much flexibility at all. I ended up getting fired for going to an audition. Even when I got my shifts covered, they gave me a hard time.”
In 2013, she turned her Ford Escape into a roving cash register. She had total control over her hours, never needing to clear her schedule with anyone for a last-minute audition. There weren’t even rules against working for both Uber and Lyft.
When acting gigs were hard to come by, she drove as many as 40 hours a week, earning what she estimated was about $20 an hour after Uber and Lyft took their commissions (generally around 20 percent). If the casting gods shined on her, she simply shut off the apps.
“When I’m really on a roll, I don’t have to work,” she said. “As long as my insurance and registration are up to date, I can go back.”
Mr. Totten had a similar experience. Before driving for Uber, he worked at a half-dozen restaurants. All those jobs ended when he had to take off for auditions, or was caught trying to learn lines on the job. Once, he refused to shave because a casting director was looking for someone with stubble.
“My look is my scruff,” said Mr. Totten, who is blond and blue-eyed, with a James Dean meets 90210 appeal. “As soon as I started driving for Uber, things got better.”
. . .
(p. 9) Recently, Mr. Totten considered getting a new side job. “I’m probably going to do Postmates,” he said, referring to the app-based service that delivers artisanal food in under 60 minutes and guarantees its drivers a minimum of $25 an hour. “You can’t live on this anymore.”

For the full story, see:
JACOB BERNSTEIN. “Drivers With Head Shots.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sun., JAN. 24, 2016): 1 & 8-9.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 23, 2016, and has the title “The New Side Job for Actors and Artists in Los Angeles: Driving.”)

Regulatory Costs Slow Development of Lifesaving Antibiotics

(p. A13) In the 1980s, 29 new antibiotics were approved; another 23 were approved during the 1990s. But only nine new drugs made it to market from 2000-10, and a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows few drugs in development for the most serious microbial threats such as multidrug resistant Acinetobacter and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
. . .
To revitalize the search for lifesaving antibiotics, the Food and Drug Administration needs a new way to approve them. Legislation proposed in both the House and the Senate would create a new regulatory pathway that would enable the FDA to approve drugs specifically for patients whose serious infections can’t be treated with existing drugs, and for whom there are few or no other treatment options.
For these patients, the FDA would be empowered to approve new drugs based on fewer or smaller clinical studies than for antibiotics intended for broader use. The goal is to reduce the cost of development and accelerate the availability of new drugs for a targeted public health need.

For the full commentary, see:
JONATHAN LEFF And ALLAN COUKELL. “How to End the Regulatory Slowdown for New Antibiotics; With the threat from lethal drug-resistant bacteria growing, the FDA needs to speed up its approval process.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 3, 2015): A13.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 2, 2015.)

“Ordinary People Should Have a Go”

(p. A11) The classical archaeologist and now big-picture historian Ian Morris, whose last book argued that war is good for you, now explains why coal is too. In “Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels,” Mr. Morris puts “energy capture” at the center of human values since the Ice Age, through three eras: the Foragers to begin with; the Farmers after about 8,000 B.C.; and, in the past few centuries, the Fossil Fuelers.
. . .
A culture favorable to liberty and dignity for commoners came out of the Reformation and 16th-century Holland, spread to Britain and Britain’s colonies in the 18th century, and resulted after 1800 in an explosion of ingenuity.
This Great Enrichment, which Mr. Morris acknowledges but does not explain, increased income per head not by the 100% or 200% of earlier efflorescences but by anything from 2,000% to 10,000%. Routine materialism of Mr. Morris’s sort can’t explain the most important secular event in human history. He wants to pin it all on energy capture. The correct story is one of ideas of human equality changing, starting with a conviction novel in the 17th century in northwestern Europe that ordinary people should have a go. This led to massive innovation, among which was energy capture. We do not have a fossil-fuel civilization. We have a free and ingenious one.

For the full review, see:
DEIRDRE MCCLOSKEY. “BOOKSHELF; Oil on Troubled Waters; In this telling, progress is explained by the rising use of fossil fuels. Yet the Industrial Revolution was powered by water, not coal..”The Wall Street Journal (Mon., July 6, 2015): A11.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 5, 2015.)

The book under review, is:
Morris, Ian. Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve, The University Center for Human Values Series. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.