Italy Regulates Irregular Pasta

(p. D8) BARI, Italy — The grandmothers set up shop early. Out of ground-floor kitchens that opened directly onto the street, they came out singing old songs, sweeping the stone floor and scattering their homemade orecchiette, the city’s renowned ear-shaped pasta, on the mesh screens of wooden trays

. . .

The scene — the grannies, the handmade pasta, the curved stone street — evoked the southern Italy of popular imagination.

. . .

But local officials suspect that the pasta street, in the historical part of town known as Old Bari, is the scene of a crime that has prompted the orecchiette crackdown scare of 2019.

According to the mayor’s office, in mid-October police inspectors busted a local restaurant for serving untraceable orecchiette, a violation of Italian and European Union regulations that require food in restaurants to be clearly sourced. The police fined the restaurateur and forced him to trash three kilos of pasta, or about seven pounds.

The November news reports (“Strong hand against the handmade orecchiette in Old Bari” wrote La Repubblica) immediately worried the sharp-elbowed women of Bari, who are permitted to sell small plastic baggies of pasta for personal use, but who are not licensed to deliver large, unlabeled shipments to restaurants.

The women don’t earn much to begin with, and fear having to wear hairnets, issue receipts and pay taxes. People here are asking if the Italian zeal for regulations, however often ignored, will end up overpowering the local pride in a custom that has brought Bari — where many families have their go-to pasta lady — tourists and much-needed good press.

. . .

“These women work 10, 15 hours a day, seven days a week to support their unemployed husbands and sons,” said Francesco Amoruso, 76, whose mother, one of the street’s venerable pasta makers, died last year at age 99. “And this is who they come down hard on?”

. . .

In the evening, as the women brought their trays of pasta into kitchens adorned with St. Nicholas shrines, Diego De Meo, 44, the owner of the restaurant Moderat, across from City Hall, waited for the evening rush.

He said he didn’t know which restaurant was caught serving contraband orecchiette but talked about how those little irregular, handmade pasta ears had “a little magic in them.” He suggested that trying to regulate Bari was like trying to straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

“Sometimes the irregular is what makes things beautiful,” Mr. De Meo said.

Pressed further for a hint on the identity of the offending restaurant, he paused awkwardly. “It was me,” he blurted out, adding that he alerted other restaurants, many of which he said bought orecchiette from the women.

“Look, it’s correct, it’s the law,” he acknowledged, referring to the fine. But while his business was unaffected, he felt bad for the women of Bari who he said “are perplexed.”

For the full story, see:

Jason Horowitz. “A Crime of Pasta, but the Suspects’ Lips Are Sealed.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019): 6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has no date posted, and has the title “Call It a Crime of Pasta.” In the last several sentences, where the versions have slightly different wording, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Berliners Vote to Name Baby Panda Twins “Hong” and “Kong”

(p. A4) BERLIN — When a Berlin newspaper asked its readers to help name two pandas born at the Berlin zoo last week, the contest quickly became weighted with political symbolism and risked the ire of Beijing, which has long treated the animals as surrogate envoys to friendly countries.

The most-suggested names by readers, according to the Tagesspiegel newspaper, were Hong and Kong, an apparent nod to solidarity with the pro-democracy protests that have been roiling Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997.

. . .

“The political symbolism is there, and it’s clear that the government and also the leadership of the Berlin Zoo would not allow it,” Prof. Eberhard Sandschneider, who studies Chinese politics at the Free University in Berlin, said of the panda contest on Friday.

“The last thing they would accept in Beijing, when the pandas are eventually brought back,” he added, “are the names Hong and Kong.”

For the full story, see:

Schuetze, Christopher F. “Clamor to Name Twin Pandas at Berlin Zoo ‘Hong’ and ‘Kong’ Could Irk Beijing.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 7, 2019): A4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 6, 2019, and has the title “At Berlin Zoo, a Clamor to Name Twin Pandas ‘Hong’ and ‘Kong’.”)

Ed Cray “Was a Meticulous Craftsman of American Biography”

In my Openness to Creative Destruction, I used Ed Cray’s book on Levi Strauss as the source of my account of how Jacob Davis invented Levi jeans.

(p. B14) Ed Cray, a journalist and educator who explored a broad spectrum of Americana with well-regarded biographies of Woody Guthrie, Chief Justice Earl Warren, the California serial killer Juan Corona, George C. Marshall and the bluejeans maker Levi Strauss, died on Oct. 8 in Palo Alto, Calif.

. . .

He delved into broad subjects, including police misconduct and medical care (“The Big Blue Line” in 1967 and “In Failing Health,” in 1970) and entrepreneurship (“Levi’s: The Story of Levi Strauss & Co.” in 1978 and “Chrome Colossus: General Motors and Its Times” in 1981).

. . .

“Ed was a meticulous craftsman of American biography with a penchant for deep research,” Professor Brinkley said in an email. “What mattered most to Ed was being a judicious judge of the past. There are no false notes in his body of work.”

. . .

Professor Joe Saltzman, a former colleague at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, where Mr. Cray also taught, said in an email, “Although his books were not best-sellers, they always offered solid reporting and new insights into his subjects.”

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “Ed Cray, 86, Biographer of American Lore.” The New York Times (Friday, November 1, 2019): B14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Nov. 1, 2019, and has the title “Ed Cray, Biographer of Woody Guthrie and Earl Warren, Dies at 86.”)

The Levi Strauss book that I mention above, is:

Cray, Ed. Levi’s: The “Shrink-to-Fit” Business That Stretched to Cover the World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1978.

Local Chinese Governments, Buried in Debt, Ask Citizens for Loans

(p. B1) RUZHOU, China — When the call came for local doctors and nurses to step up for their troubled community, the emergency wasn’t medical. It was financial.

Ruzhou, a city of one million people in central China, urgently needed a new hospital, their bosses said. To pay for it, the administrators were asking health care workers for loans. If employees didn’t have the money, they were pointed to banks where they could borrow it and then turn it over to the hospital.

China’s doctors and nurses are paid a small fraction of what medical professionals make in the United States. On message boards online and in the local media, many complained that they felt pressured to pony up thousands of dollars they could not afford to give.

“It’s like adding insult to injury,” a message posted to an online government forum said. Others, speaking to state and local media, asked why money from lowly employees was needed to build big-ticket government projects.

Ruzhou is a city with a borrowing problem — and an emblem of the trillions of dollars in debt threatening the Chinese economy.

Local governments borrowed for years to create jobs and keep factories humming. Now China’s economy is slowing to its weakest pace in nearly three decades, but Beijing has kept the lending spigots tight to quell its debt problems.

For the full story, see:

Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li. “China’s Complex Debt Problem.” The New York Times (Monday, November 11, 2019): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 10, 2019, and has the title “How Bad Is China’s Debt? A City Hospital Is Asking Nurses for Loans.”)

“The Opportunities in Climate Change”

(p. B1) SKAERSOGAARD, Denmark — On a mild autumn morning, Sven Moesgaard climbed a sunbathed hill and inspected an undulating expanse of neatly planted vines. A picking crew was harvesting tons of hardy Solaris grapes that he would soon turn into thousands of bottles of crisp white and sparkling Danish wine.

A decade ago, winemaking was regarded as a losing proposition in these notoriously cool climes. But as global temperatures rise, a fledgling wine industry is growing from once-unlikely fields across Scandinavia, as entrepreneurs seek to turn a warming climate to their advantage.

“We’re looking for the opportunities in climate change,” said Mr. Moesgaard, the founder of Skaersogaard Vin, cradling a cluster of golden grapes. “In the coming decades, we’ll be growing more wine in Scandinavia while countries that have traditionally dominated the industry produce less.”

Nordic vintners are betting that they can develop what were once mainly hobbyist ventures into thriving commercial operations. The dream is to transform Scandinavia into an essential global producer of (p. B7) white wines, which are beginning to flourish along Europe’s northern rim.

The growth has been rapid: Denmark now boasts 90 commercial vineyards, up from just two 15 years ago, and around 40 have sprung up in Sweden. Nearly a dozen vineyards are operating as far north as Norway.

. . .

Nordic vintners point to southern England, where a world-class sparkling wine industry has emerged around a warming climate. Companies including Taittinger of France have invested in land in Britain to hedge against the effect of temperature spikes in Champagne.

For the full story, see:

Liz Alderman. “Bordeaux on the Baltic.” The New York Times (Saturday, November 17, 2019): B1 & B7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 11, [sic] 2019, and has the title “Scandinavian Wine? A Warming Climate Tempts Entrepreneurs.”)

Stents Do Not Reduce Heart Attacks or Deaths

(p. A17) The findings of a large federal study on bypass surgeries and stents call into question the medical care provided to tens of thousands of heart disease patients with blocked coronary arteries, scientists reported at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association on Saturday [Nov. 16, 2019].

The new study found that patients who received drug therapy alone did not experience more heart attacks or die more often than those who also received bypass surgery or stents, tiny wire cages used to open narrowed arteries.

That finding held true for patients with several severely blocked coronary arteries. Stenting and bypass procedures, however, did help some patients with intractable chest pain, called angina.

. . .

Stenting costs an average of $25,000 per patient; bypass surgery costs an average of $45,000 in the United States. The nation could save more than $775 million a year by not giving stents to the 31,000 patients who get the devices even though they have no chest pain, Dr. Hochman said.

. . .

But getting a stent does not obviate the need for medical therapy, Dr. Boden noted. Since patients with stents need an additional anti-clotting drug, they actually wind up taking more medication than patients who are treated with drugs alone.

About a third of stent patients develop chest pain again within 30 days to six months and end up with receiving another stent, Dr. Boden added.

For the full story, see:

Kolata, Gina. “Drugs Are Shown to Reduce Need For Surgery to Fix Blocked Arteries.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, November 17, 2019): A17.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 16, 2019, and has the title “Surgery for Blocked Arteries Is Often Unwarranted, Researchers Find.” The online version says that the page number of the New York print edition was A19. The page number of my National edition was A17.)

Bicycles Gave Women “Freedom and Self-Reliance”

(p. B8) The decade before the 20th century began saw an explosion in bicycle sales and cycling in general. The so-called “safety bicycle,” with wheels of equal size and a chain mechanism that allowed pedaling to drive the back wheel, along with the arrival of the pneumatic tire, had transformed cycling from an acrobatic and somewhat perilous enterprise into a pleasurable, less hazardous and even utilitarian recreation. Bicycles were mass produced as men increasingly used them to commute to work.

Especially significant was that women, for the first time, took to the activity, relishing the freedom it gave them from the restrictions of a homebound existence. Corsets and billowy skirts even gave way to bloomers so that women could ride comfortably. The bicycle was very much a part of the early women’s movement.

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” the suffragist Susan B. Anthony said in an 1896 interview in The New York World with the pioneering journalist Nellie Bly. “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. It makes her feel as if she were independent. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

If ever there was an avatar of these combined social trends, “of free, untrammeled womanhood,” it was Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, a Latvian immigrant who in June 1894, at about age 23, cycled away from her Boston home, leaving a husband and three small children, for a journey around the world.

. . .

Kopchovsky’s celebrity, though it lingered through the completion of her trip, was short-lived, and her adventure would probably have remained obscure were it not for Peter Zheutlin, a journalist and cycling hobbyist who, decades after her death, became intrigued by what little he knew of Kopchovsky, his great-grandfather’s sister. For his book “Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride” (2007), he scoured newspaper archives from around the world, dug up family relics and plumbed the memory of Kopchovsky’s only survivor, a granddaughter.

For the full obituary, see:

Bruce Weber. “Annie Londonderry.” The New York Times (Monday, November 11, 2019): B8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Nov. 6, 2019, and has the title “Overlooked No More: Annie Londonderry, Who Traveled the World by Bicycle.”)

The book mentioned above, is:

Zheutlin, Peter. Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride. New York: Citadel Press Books, 2007.