Week Ending Saturday, December 31st

On Thursday, I drove down to Seaford in the afternoon and sat in the car on the seafront for awhile. The memorable item of the day was the passage of about 100 dark-bellied brent geese flying easterly and low over the sea in two separate tight-knit formations at about 2-300m from off the busy promenade.  It was probably just a local movement as it’s far too early for them to be returning north to Siberia.  I found this both deeply symbolic and moving.

Friday, and while having breakfast, I couldn’t fail to be fascinated and enthralled by the capers of up to four grey squirrels in a large oak with an expansive crown to it a few yards beyond the garden. The way they could negotiate about this tree and the speed of their antics was almost incredible!  One came speeding down one of the main stems, actually leaping ahead at one point!  I hasten to add that i’m no great lover of grey squirrels.

Tallest Wave Ever Recorded

https://uk.yahoo.com/news/six-storey-high-wave-sets-record-says-un-160527273.html

Six-storey-high wave sets a record, says UN agency

13 December 2016.

The UN’s weather agency on Tuesday announced the highest wave on record – a behemoth that towered 19 metres (62.3 feet) above the North Atlantic. Scrutiny of data sent back by an automated buoy showed a monster wave rose at 0600 GMT on February 4, 2013 at a remote spot between Britain and Iceland, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said. “This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 meters. It is a remarkable record,” WMO deputy chief Wenjian Zhang said in a statement. Taller than a six-storey building, the mighty wave occurred after a “very strong” cold front had barrelled through the area, producing winds up of 43.8 knots (81 kilometres, 50.4 miles per hour). The previous record height for a wave was 18.3m, notched up in December 2007, also in the North Atlantic.

Automated buoys are vital tools for oceanographers, sending back data on sea currents, temperatures and swells for seafarers, climate researchers and others. “We need high quality and extensive ocean records to help in our understanding of weather/ocean interactions,” said Zhang. “Despite the huge strides in satellite technology, the sustained observations and data records from moored and drifting buoys and ships still play a major role in this respect.” The North Atlantic, from the Grand Banks underwater plateau off Canada to south of Iceland and the west of Britain, is the world’s biggest breeding ground for giant waves. At wintertime, wind circulation and atmospheric pressure cause intense extratropical storms, often dubbed “bombs,” the WMO said. The height of a wave is defined as the distance from the crest of one wave to the trough of the next.

The UN agency occasionally reveals quirky weather-related milestones, like its September finding that an August 2012 lightning flash in France was the longest-lasting bolt ever recorded.

Which Are the Healthiest Oils to Cook With?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33675975?post_id=1281307675222529_1350253378327958#_=_

Which oils are best to cook with?

28 July 2015

From the section BBC Magazine

 

Choosing the right oil to cook with is a complicated business, writes Michael Mosley.

When it comes to fats and oils, we are spoiled for choice. Supermarket shelves are heaving with every conceivable option. But these days it is extremely confusing because there is so much debate about the benefits and harm that come from consuming different types of fats.

On Trust Me, I’m a Doctor we decided to look at things from a different angle by asking: “Which fats and oils are best to cook with?”

You might think it is obvious that frying with vegetable oils has to be healthier than cooking with animal fat, like lard or butter. But is it really?

To find out, we gave some Leicester residents a variety of fats and oils and asked our volunteers to use them in their everyday cooking. The volunteers were also asked to collect any leftover oil which would then be analysed.

The fats and oils they used included sunflower oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, cold pressed rapeseed oil, olive oil (refined and extra virgin), butter and goose fat.

Samples of oil and fat, after cooking, were collected and sent to Leicester School of Pharmacy at De Montfort University in Leicester, where Prof Martin Grootveld and his team ran a parallel experiment where they heated up these same oils and fats to frying temperatures.

When you are frying or cooking at a high temperature (at or close to 180C or 356F), the molecular structures of the fats and oils you are using change. They undergo what’s called oxidation – they react with oxygen in the air to form aldehydes and lipid peroxides. At room temperature something similar happens, though more slowly. When lipids go rancid they become oxidised.

Consuming or inhaling aldehydes, even in small amounts, has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and cancer. So what did Prof Grootveld’s team find?

“We found,” he says, “that the oils which were rich in polyunsaturates – the corn oil and sunflower oil – generated very high levels of aldehydes.”

I was surprised as I’d always thought of sunflower oil as being “healthy”.

“Sunflower and corn oil are fine,” Prof Grootveld says, “as long as you don’t subject them to heat, such as frying or cooking. It’s a simple chemical fact that something which is thought to be healthy for us is converted into something that is very unhealthy at standard frying temperatures.”

The olive oil and cold-pressed rapeseed oil produced far less aldehydes, as did the butter and goose fat. The reason is that these oils are richer in monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids, and these are much more stable when heated. In fact, saturated fats hardly undergo this oxidation reaction at all.

Prof Grootveld generally recommends olive oil for frying or cooking. “Firstly because lower levels of these toxic compounds are generated, and secondly the compounds that are formed are actually less threatening to the human body.”

His research also suggests that when it comes to cooking, frying in saturate-rich animal fats or butter may be preferable to frying in sunflower or corn oil.

“If I had a choice,” he says, “between lard and polyunsaturates, I’d use lard every time.”

Lard, despite its unhealthy reputation, is actually rich in monounsaturated fats.

Our study also threw up another surprise because Prof Grootveld’s team identified in some of the samples sent in by our volunteers a couple of new aldehydes that they had not previously seen in the oil-heating experiments.

“We’ve done some new science here,” he says with a smile on his face. “It’s a world first, I’m very, very pleased about it.”

I’m not sure that our volunteers would have been quite so thrilled to discover their cooking had managed to generate new, potentially toxic compounds.

So what is Prof Grootveld’s overall advice?

Firstly, try to do less frying, particularly at high temperature. If you are frying, minimise the amount of oil you use, and also take steps to remove the oil from the outside of the fried food, perhaps with a paper towel.

To reduce aldehyde production go for an oil or fat high in monounsaturated or saturated lipids (preferably greater than 60% for one or the other, and more than 80% for the two combined), and low in polyunsaturates (less than 20%).

He thinks the ideal “compromise” oil for cooking purposes is olive oil, “because it is about 76% monounsaturates, 14% saturates and only 10% polyunsaturates – monounsaturates and saturates are much more resistant to oxidation than polyunsaturates”.

When it comes to cooking it doesn’t seem to matter whether the olive oil is “extra virgin” or not. “The antioxidant levels present in the extra virgin products are insufficient to protect us against heat-induced oxidation.”

His final bit of advice is always keep your oils in a cupboard, out of the light, and try not to reuse them as this also leads to the accumulation of nasty side-products.

Know your fats

 

  • Polyunsaturated fatsContain two or more carbon-carbon double bonds. When eaten in as food such nuts, seeds, fish and leafy greens, they have clear health benefits. However, the benefits of consuming sunflower oil and corn oil, although rich in polyunsaturates, are much less clear.
  • Monounsaturated oilsContain just one carbon-carbon double bond. They are found in avocados, olives, olive oil, almonds and hazelnuts, and also in lard and goose fat. Olive oil, which is approximately 76% monounsaturated, is a key component in the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Saturated fatshave no double bonds between carbon atoms. Although we are encouraged to switch from eating saturated fats, particularly dairy and other fats derived from animals, the benefits of doing so are being challenged.
  • The percentages of each in the oils below varies somewhat but these values are typical
Type of oil or fat Polyunsaturated (%) Monounsaturated (%) Saturated (%)
Coconut oil 2 6 86
Butter 3 21 51
Lard 11 45 39
Goose fat 11 56 27
Olive oil 10 76 14
Rapeseed oil 28 63 7
Sesame oil 41 40 14
Corn oil 54 27 12
Sunflower oil 65 20 10

 

Song Thrush Singing

Tuesday, December 6th.

Upon getting out of bed this morning, I heard the first tentative, sweet notes of a song thrush singing amongst nearby trees.

We’ve still got to get to the shortest day but sounds of next spring have arrived!

Demise of the Cadbury’s Chocolate Brand

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/cadburys-chocolate-fairtrade-fair-trade-mark-farmers-kraft-american-brand-abandoned-promise-a7445826.html

In a final betrayal of the Cadbury brand, Kraft has quietly abandoned its promise to stick with Fairtrade.

Hannah Fearn, Tuesday 29 November 2016.

When John Cadbury founded his legendary confectionery firm in 1824, he was selling just three products: tea, coffee and – perhaps more predictably – drinking chocolate. With the help of his brother Benjamin, he grew the business rapidly; by 1885 they were even supplying chocolate to Queen Victoria.

When John Cadbury’s sons took over the business in 1861 it had only 11 employees and was losing money – but the pair turned it around. At the end of the century, inspired by their father’s Quaker ideals, the brothers built the Bournville estate to house the hundreds of workers the company’s now vast factory required and “alleviate the evils of modern, more cramped, living conditions” in the process.

28-cadbury-get

Cadbury’s was just one of a proud tradition of ethical British businesses, including the confectioner Rowntree, Clarks the shoemaker and Wedgewood pottery. Here was a company that provided a quality product to the people, and exercised a social responsibility in doing so.

Sadly, the creation of the still-lively community at Bournville may have been the high point for this historic brand. The first signs of its descent from its origins as a force for social good – the lowermost slopes of which it finally traversed this week – were visible as early as the late 1960s.

In 1969, Cadbury merged with Schweppes. That put an end to its Quaker ideals and social underpinning. It became a business with a single, capitalist motive: selling more confectionary, making more money.

On went the journey towards the symbol of global hyper-capitalist culture it is today. In 1978, a US chocolate magnate, Peter Paul, acquired a 10 per cent share. Its profits outside the UK overtook its British interests. In the late 2000s, jobs were stripped with the closure of a factory in Keynsham. Some of that production moved overseas.

After months of wrangling, in January 2010 Kraft Foods finally bought the firm for £8.40 a share. A great British icon, an important brand in the history and evolution of British business, was no longer British at all. The name persisted, but precious little remained of the company Cadbury himself had created, or the strict business ethics under which he and his two sons worked.

But there was even more change yet to come. When the buyout occurred, Kraft said it would stick to Cadbury’s commitment to using Fairtrade cocoa beans to produce its chocolate. Fairtrade rules mean that cocoa farmers earn a minimum of £1,600 per tonne of cocoa sold. This week, Cadbury confirmed that it was no longer working with Fairtrade, and had instead switched to a new cocoa production partnership known as Cocoa Life – which does not exert the same price rules.

Cadbury has agreed with Fairtrade to keep its logo on the back of their chocolate bars, as a “partner” with the brand. Fairtrade demands that farmers should not be worse off under the new scheme. But this is nevertheless a significant pulling-back from the company’s original commitment.

Cadbury is now a subsidiary of an arm of Kraft, or spin-out company, known as Mondelez International. Its chief executive is Irene Rosenfeld. Her remuneration rose by 50 per cent in 2014, to $21m. What the cocoa farmers who work to supply her global operation will earn for their crucial part in her success is now under question.

Other smaller brands under the Cadbury group have had their ethos similarly stripped from them. Green & Blacks was founded as a small, organic brand and was awarded Britain’s first Fairtrade mark. It was bought in 2005 by Cadbury, and subsumed by Mondelez International as part of the Kraft takeover. Its new range of chocolate for the US market will no longer be organic – the first time that the Green & Black’s label had ever used non-organic chocolate since it was founded in 1991.

Perhaps it’s unfair to single out a single brand when the journey Cadbury has taken, from a local family business to global corporate, is one that so many have followed. But it is the very epitome of the destruction of business value in the search for profit at all costs.

For now, Bournville is still home to Mondelez’s Global Centre of Excellence for Chocolate research and development. Every Cadbury chocolate bar you buy can trace its origins back to the heart of the British business. How much longer before it’s cheaper and easier to do that work somewhere else – whatever the cost to the community that birthed this great British brand?

Pollution from Cruise Liner in UK Waters

http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/latestnews/entryid/2110/princess-cruise-liners-fined-in-illegal-ocean-pollution-case.aspx

Princess Cruise Liners fined in illegal ocean pollution case.

Ethical Consumer.  02/12/2016.

United States Department of Justice announced on the 1st December that Princess Cruise Liners has received a US$40M penalty after pleading guilty to seven federal charges in an illegal ocean pollution case that involved one ship’s use of a so-called magic pipe to divert oily waste into the waters.

According to the press release “Princess will pay a $40 million penalty – the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution – and plead guilty to charges related to illegal dumping of oil contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship.”

cruise-ship

Princess, headquartered in Santa Clarita, California, is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation (Carnival), which owns and operates multiple cruise lines and collectively comprises the world’s largest cruise company.

As part of the plea agreement with Princess, cruise ships from eight Carnival cruise line companies (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line N.V., Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd. and AIDA Cruises) will be under a court supervised Environmental Compliance Program (ECP) for five years. The ECP will require independent audits by an outside entity and a court appointed monitor.

It said “The U.S. investigation was initiated after information was provided to the U.S. Coast Guard by the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) indicating that a newly hired engineer on the Caribbean Princess reported that a so-called “magic pipe” had been used on Aug. 23, 2013, to illegally discharge oily waste off the coast of England.”

“The whistleblowing engineer quit his position when the ship reached Southampton, England. The chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered a cover-up, including removal of the magic pipe and directing subordinates to lie.”

 Illegal discharges.

According to papers filed in court, the Caribbean Princess had made illegal discharges through bypass equipment since 2005, one year after the ship began operations.

The discharge on Aug. 26, 2013, involved approximately 4,227 gallons, 23 miles off the coast of England within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. At the same time as the discharge, engineers simultaneously ran clean seawater through the ship’s overboard equipment in order to create a false digital record for a legitimate discharge.

Illegal practices were also found on four other Princess ships, including use of clean ocean water to fool onboard sensors that would otherwise detect dumping of improperly contaminated bilge water. Authorities say cost savings was the motive and that the ship’s officers and crew conspired to cover up what was going on.

History of environmental violations.

“The conduct being addressed today is particularly troubling because the Carnival family of companies has a documented history of environmental violations, including in the Southern District of Florida,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer.

“Our hope is that all companies abide by regulations that are in place to protect our natural resources and prevent environmental harm. Today’s case should send a powerful message to other companies that the U.S. government will continue to enforce a zero tolerance policy for deliberate ocean dumping that endangers the countless animals, marine life and humans who rely on clean water to survive.”

If approved by the court, $10 million of the $40 million criminal penalty will be devoted to community service projects to benefit the maritime environment; $3 million of the community service payments will go to environmental projects in South Florida; $1 million will be earmarked for projects to benefit the marine environment in United Kingdom waters. [!!]

Looming Skills Shortage

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/dec/01/sir-michael-wilshaw-ofsteds-dirty-harry-bids-farewell-to-a-colourful-career

Sally Weale Education correspondent, Thursday 1 December.

ABSTRACT.  After five years in the job of chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw will [deliver his final annual general report as head of Ofsted on Thursday morning].  The 70-year-old former headteacher, whose reputation was forged in the classrooms of some of the most challenging schools in the country, and who nicknamed himself Dirty Harry after the Clint Eastwood character, has been a colourful figure in the education world, unafraid to upset pupils, parents, teachers and government ministers.

His final annual report is expected to focus on under performance in further education [technical] colleges, a neglected part of the education system, because – as he pointed out with characteristic candidness on Channel 4 News during a visit to a college in east London – “most politicians don’t send their youngsters to these sorts of places”.

Read the full story via the above link.

The Blight of Airbnb

I personally think that the regulations need tightening on this; the housing shortage is so acute that the last hurdle it needs is this type of greed by landlords.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/01/airbnb-introduces-90-day-a-year-limit-for-london-hosts

Airbnb introduces 90-day annual limit for London hosts.

Robert Booth and Dan Newling, Thursday 1 December 2016.

ABSTRACT.  A quarter of London homes listed on Airbnb were rented for more than 90 days last year, many illegally and in breach of an act intended to stop landlords turning badly needed housing into unofficial hotels. The booming home-sharing website admitted on Thursday that 4,938 of its “entire home” London listings – 23% of the total – were let out for three months or more, despite a law requiring anyone doing so to apply for planning permission.

Follow the above link for the full story.

New ‘Low Sugar’ Chocolate

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/dec/01/nestle-discovers-way-to-slash-sugar-in-chocolate-without-changing-taste

Nestlé says it can slash sugar in chocolate without changing taste.

Haroon Siddique, Thursday 1 December 2016.

ABSTRACT.  Nestlé says it has found a way of slashing the amount of sugar in some of its chocolate bars by 40%, without compromising the taste.

The Swiss food company, whose products include Kit Kats, Aeros and Yorkies, said it has achieved the reduction by discovering a way “to structure sugar differently”. The new process is said to make sugar dissolve faster so that even when less is used, the tongue perceives an identical level of sweetness.

choco

It plans to patent the process, discovered by its scientists, which it says will enable it to significantly decrease the total sugar in its confectionery products.

Visit the above link for the full story.