“First We Eat”: A Lighthearted Film Takes on More Serious Overtones

The Canadian documentary “First We Eat” takes a rather amusing and lighthearted perspective on the challenges of eating locally particularly in Canada’s Yukon.

It was precipitated by a landslide that covered the only road into Dawson City. Grocery shelves were emptied in 48 hours. This caused Suzanne Croker to embark on a one- year project to only eat local. Her husband and three children were reluctant but, in the end, supportive. By day three Suzanne is exhausted and near tears. Making your own salt from plants and getting your drinking water from trees and making birch syrup is not an easy task. In fact, it is just about a full time job.

Crocker realized the family would not make it unless they obtained help from a group of hard nosed but supportive hunters and gatherers and the viewer is on a journey discovering a community of producers including dairy farmers, livestock producers and most interestingly Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in natives  who have been living off the land for thousands of years although the younger generation has to “go back to school” and be trained on hunting and gathering. And such respect and veneration they have for the fish and animals they kill and where nothing is wasted. Suzanne notes her vegetarianism is on hold as the only source of protein was from fish and meat.

Crocker’s family accomplished Crocker’s goal an amazing feat where 97% of food is transported into Dawson City. There are moments of family agony and retching and gagging over terrible tasting food. Yet there is the triumph of making birch syrup, homemade yogurt, butter, cheese and moose beef and kidney pie amongst many other dishes. Soap berries or pig blood and milk smoothies anyone?

Crocker notes when you rely on outside sources for all your food you are in trouble. Crocker strongly believes in establishing a relationship with all the producers of her food to the point she knows where everything came from on the family’s plates.

As Crocker says, “Some of the challenges we faced are very much specific to the North, but the theme of food dependence is global. A community that depends on its food coming from elsewhere is extremely vulnerable. And I like to say that the North is the canary in the coalmine of food security.”

I try to eat local and it does take some effort  but the produce I eat is fresher and not doused with preservatives and chemicals but if the pandemic spirals out of control I will not have to depend on grocery stores to the extent most people do. Never take for granted your food supply and give thanks to those who produce it and transport it to you.

In a way there is some similarity to a Canadian documentary I saw (the name of which escapes me) of a couple wanting to make a point that much of the food produced simply rots away as garbage so they lived off food from restaurant and grocery store dumpsters for a year.

Crocker is an acclaimed film maker and “First We Eat” is very well produced conveying an important message. It won the 2020 Audience Choice Award at the Toronto Hot Docs Festival. It has been playing throughout Canada including Cinema Parc in Montreal other virtual theatres are described here https://blueicedocs.com/stream/31/first-we-eat/.

Congratulations Crockers! You did it! Watch this trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LmBY915KNQ Oh by the way Suzanne no longer requires blood pressure medication.


The Barren Land of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

If you have been exposed to an MBSR/MBCT course through a hospital which is quite often a step for people suffering from depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder mindfulness becomes a bland therapeutic tool focusing on a apparently simplistic tool of meditation focusing on the breath to give the mind a respite from what has upset it. At the end of the day it is therapeutic type of tool. Whether it be MBSR or MBCT in an institutional setting it really has very little soul. A constant Jon Kabat-Zin theme of being in the present moment in a non-judgemental fashion. Often boring body scan meditations. Breathe, breathe and think of nothing else but the breath. This has so much wisdom in it but having been  at least 14 days of MBSR training at a local hospital I can say only a few really understood its significance .Nor is there any understanding of Buddhist or Daoist traditions that form the core of modern mindfulness.

Yes MBSR and MBCT arguably are simply tools. Like prescribing an anti-depressant MBSR/MBCT has become a “drug” to deal with stress and psychiatric disorders. I participate in, or used to before COVID, a monthly mindfulness group meeting headed by a psychiatrist at a local hospital. Yet try to talk about “being in the present moment” or “feeling as one” during meditation really no one understands these concepts. That is a shame to see that mindfulness may be just another RX script. A new nondrug drug. The way I see it taught within the hospital situation is that mindfulness is about a state of mind and not a state of how to live mindfully.

Now if it works to reduce or control stress and psychiatric conditions bravo!

But mindfulness living requires more than a technical sophistry if one wants to take that path. Should there be a value-based mindfulness? By this I mean a conscious attempt to import certain values into a mindful practice. Arguably if one becomes aware of these values isn’t one mindful of them?

Can we move beyond that shallow technical application of head towards a value-based mindfulness that involves principles of living and relating that involves more than a quick and dirty meditation that frees the mind from adverse reactions to life?

Perhaps this is something we should delve into? Are there principles of mindfulness that take us beyond the quick and dirty technical use of mindfulness and shape our lives to a more rich and rewarding intellectual existence beyond that trite “living in the present moment” expression. Well it is not that trite but in my experience it is trite as MBSR participants have absolutely no or little understanding of how it feels and how it means.

Yet should we have a cup of “mindful tea” wearing our mindful T-shirts. Or should we be suckered in by employers offering mindful courses to perhaps exploit and manipulate their employees. Hey, the employer says, we gave you the tools to manage stress so let’s put more responsibility on how as after all you have been “trained” to handle stress.

Let us delve deeper into what mindful living might encompass. Coming up a discussion on the 16 guidelines of life.

(The author is certified in mindfulness by the University of Toronto and the University of Leiden.)


E-Hotleier’s Post on AI in The Hotel Industry: Efficiency and AI: We Know the Result

Automating guest communication? Chatbots are just the tip of the iceberg

Zoe KoumbouziPosted on Yesterday at 9:18 am


In times of crises, we tend to look to technology to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Previous crises have boosted digital transformation and the current corona pandemic is no different. Digital transformation means replacing existing practices with more advanced digital technology to become more efficient. It can involve many technologies, but currently, Artificial Intelligence and big data are driving much of the transformation.

It has been shown that companies that adopt quickly and decisively in times of crises to new paradigms, later reap the rewards. It’s not the moment to play it safe, on the contrary: now is the time to reassess your digital tech stack. Once we reach the post-pandemic era, newly implemented technologies will become the new norm. Taking an early digital leap will set your property ahead of your competitors when things take off again.

What technologies should I consider?

Let chatbots do the chatting

Artificial intelligence has been named as the most promising technology of the past few years. It’s clear that we will see a rapid increase in the use of AI in all sorts of platforms, messaging being no exception. AI-driven chatbots are a great tool to streamline guest communications, whether before, during or after their stay.

During the pandemic, we have acquired new digital habits, most of which include our mobile phones, like scanning QR codes for restaurant menus, video calling, not to mention a huge global uptake in messaging use. The post-pandemic guest will expect to be able to request services or ask questions through their usual messaging channels instead of having to queue at reception.


Automate and streamline workflows

Chatbots are a great way to start the digitalization of your guest communication. However, it is important that the processes that follow or precede the conversation are equally digitalized and streamlined. When a guest requests come in through your messaging platform, the right automated processes should be in place, so the requests immediately land into the right hands and it’s clearly understood what the next steps are.

Don’t wait, automate

Consider automating your reactive (incoming) but also your proactive (outgoing) communication. Send out the key information before arrival, so your guest can come prepared with the right expectations, and you can be well prepared for your guest. By proactively contacting your guests at key stages of their guest journey, you can detect any needs before they become issues and facilitate essential information.

Collect, analyze & learn from guest data

In this changing landscape it can be hard to pinpoint guest needs, which is where guest analytics can help you. To understand your new type of guests, analyze guest data by gathering information through messaging interactions and guest requests. Collect all your interactions and stays into one profile to better understand who your guests are and create smart guest lists for a more effective and segmented communication.

Learn about your guests’ needs and preferences by analyzing your incoming guest requests: what services or information do they request most, through what messaging channels, etc. Guest request data can also help you improve and streamline your operations by looking at what issues are reported most frequently, what are the root causes, are all issues resolved, how fast are they resolved, etc. Keeping track of guest data will allow you to adapt and better your strategies as the situation continues to evolve.

When you decide to introduce a chatbot into your organisation, keep in mind that for a successful digital communication strategy you need much more. They are a great starting point, but the rest of your operations should also be optimised and streamlined with the right technologies so you are well-prepared for what comes after the pandemic.


Your Mother Always Said Eat Fruit and it May Actually Benefit Your Health!

Logo of nihpa

Nutr Rev. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 Mar 31.Published in final edited form as:Nutr Rev. 2010 Mar; 68(3): 168–177.doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00273.xPMCID: PMC3068482NIHMSID: NIHMS171310PMID: 20384847

Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health

Arpita BasuMichael Rhone, and Timothy J LyonsAuthor informationCopyright and License informationDisclaimerThe publisher’s final edited version of this article is available at Nutr RevSee other articles in PMC that cite the published article.Go to:


Berries are a good source of polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, micronutrients, and fiber. In epidemiological and clinical studies, these constituents have been associated with improved cardiovascular risk profiles. Human intervention studies using chokeberries, cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries (either fresh, or as juice, or freeze-dried), or purified anthocyanin extracts have demonstrated significant improvements in LDL oxidation, lipid peroxidation, total plasma antioxidant capacity, dyslipidemia, and glucose metabolism. Benefits were seen in healthy subjects and in those with existing metabolic risk factors. Underlying mechanisms for these beneficial effects are believed to include upregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, decreased activities of carbohydrate digestive enzymes, decreased oxidative stress, and inhibition of inflammatory gene expression and foam cell formation. Though limited, these data support the recommendation of berries as an essential fruit group in a heart-healthy diet.Keywords: anthocyanins, berries, inflammation, lipid peroxidation, nitric oxideGo to:


Consumption of fruits and vegetables has been correlated with decreased risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD). National health objectives reflected in Healthy People 2010 advocate increasing fruit consumption by more than 75% or to at least two servings per day in persons 2 years of age and older.1 Currently, only 32% of adults and 13% of adolescents meet this goal of fruit intake.2,3 Between the years 2000 and 2020 overall fruit consumption in the United States is anticipated to grow by 24–27%. This increase is attributed in part to an increase in per capita consumption, and in part to a predicted increase in the total consumers in the US market.4

The consumption of berry fruits and their contribution to improving cardiovascular health is a subject of considerable interest. The commonly consumed berries in the United States include blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberries. Less commonly consumed berries include acai, black currant, chokeberry, and mulberries. Berries are low in calories and are high in moisture and fiber. They contain natural antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, andmicronutrients such as folic acid, calcium, selenium, alpha and beta carotene, and lutein. Phytochemicals found in berries include polyphenols along with high proportions of flavonoids including anthocyanins and ellagitannins. Table 1 lists the commonly consumed berries and their selected nutrient and phytochemical composition as identified in the USDA food composition database.5,6 Anthocyanins comprise the largest group of natural, water-soluble, plant pigments and impart the bright colors to berry fruits710 and to flowers. Approximately 400 individual anthocyanins have been determined. They are generally more concentrated in the skins of fruits, especially berry fruits. However, red berry fruits, such as strawberries and cherries, also have anthocyanins in their flesh. Anthocyanin content is usually proportional to the color intensity and can range from 2 to 4 g/kg, increasing as the fruit ripens. Evidence suggests that Americans consume an average of 12.5–215 mg of anthocyanins per day.11 Studies have shown that berry anthocyanins are poorly bioavailable, are extensively conjugated in the intestines and liver, and are excreted in urine within 2–8 hours post consumption.12,13 Post-harvest processing, such as pressing, pasteurization, and conventional and vacuum drying, can significantly affect the polyphenol (including anthocyanin) and vitamin content of berries, and therefore their bioactivities and effects on CVD risk factors.1416

Table 1

Berries with select nutrient and phytochemical profiles expressed in values per 100 g of edible portion.5,6

content (mg)*
C (mg)
E (mg)
Blackberry  90.4642.5  2.49  435.3  211.17
Blueberry163.5251.71  9.72  572.4    9.70.57
Bilberry430.91  4.13NFNFNFNFNF
Chokeberry, raw437.22NF  8.90NFNFNFNF
Cranberry juice (unsweetened)NF  0.9220.82  460.1    9.31.20
Cranberry juice cocktail    0.46  0.19  1.79  54NF  42.30.22
Cranberry (dried, sweetened)    0.72NF  6.91NFNFNFNF
Cranberry sauce (canned, sweetened)    0.14NF  5.111511.0    2.00.83
Currant, black, raw272.44  1.1712.69  63NF1811.0
Mulberries, rawNFNF  2.47  431.7  36.40.87
Black raspberry324.02NFNFNFNFNFNF
Red raspberry (raw)  38.68  6.63  1.32  526.5  26.20.87
Strawberry  33.63  4.51  1.6  322.0  58.50.29

*Total anthocyanidins (cyanidin, delphinidin, peonidin, petunidin).Total flavan-3-ols [(−)-epicatechin, (−)-epicatechin 3-gallate, (−)-epigallocatechin, (−)-epigallocatechin 3 gallate, (+)-catechin, (+)-gallocatechin].Total flavonols (kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin).

Abbreviation: NF, not found in the USDA food composition database.Go to:


Nutritional epidemiology provides convincing evidence of the cardioprotective effects of frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables high in fiber, micronutrients, and several phytochemicals.1720 Data reported from the INTERHEART study, comprising dietary patterns from 52 countries, revealed a significant inverse association between the prudent dietary pattern high in fruits and vegetables, and risk of acute myocardial infarction.21 Evaluation of selected nutrients and food group intakes among 2,757 overweight US adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which is an established risk factor of CVD, showed that less than 50% of subjects consumed the minimum recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.22 A comparative study between the US and French populations revealed significantly lower fruit and vegetable consumption among American men and women versus French adults.23 Analyses of 24-h recall data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999–2000, revealed that only 40% of Americans consumed five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.24 These data indicate a significant gap between the actual amounts of fruit and vegetable consumption and the recommended number of servings for the US population.25 Furthermore, NHANES (2001–2002) data reported the pattern of fruit intake among US adults, who mainly consumed apples, pears, and bananas, followed by melons, citrus fruits, and grapes.26 Thus, berries do not seem to be commonly consumed fruits by the US population in spite of their benefits, as documented in emerging nutrition and health research.

Studies have also reported specific associations between berries or berry flavonoids (anthocyanins) and cardiovascular health. Data reported from the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) showed a significantly lower risk of CVD-related deaths among 1,950 men in the highest quartile of berry intake (>408 g/day) versus men with the lowest intake (<133 g/day) during a mean follow-up of 12.8 years. These findings were based on a model adjusted for major CVD risk factors, which further showed an inverse correlation between intakes of fruits, berries, and vegetables and serum haptoglobin, a marker of inflammation.27 Post-menopausal women (n = 34,489) participating in the Iowa Women’s Health Study, showed a significant reduction in CVD mortality associated with strawberry intake during a 16-year follow-up period. In the case of blueberries, an age- and energy-adjusted model showed a significant decrease in coronary heart disease mortality, though the significance did not persist following adjustment for other confounding variables. For both strawberries and blueberries, the significant reduction in relative risk was associated with at least once per week consumption. The data also reported that a mean anthocyanin intake of 0.2 mg/day was associated with a significantly reduced risk of CVD mortality in these postmenopausal women.28

Female US health professionals enrolled in the Women’s Health Study (n = 38,176), a randomized controlled trial of low-dose aspirin and vitamin E, provided dietary information using a 131-item validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Strawberry intake was described as “never” or “less than one serving per month” up to“6+ servings per day” of fresh, frozen, or canned strawberries. Analyses of baseline strawberry intake revealed that only 7.7% of subjects consumed greater than two servings of strawberries per week, whereas 42% of subjects reported an intake of 1–3 servings per month. During a follow-up period of approximately 11 years, a decreasing trend for CVD was observed for subjects consuming higher amounts of strawberries (P = 0.06). The study also showed a borderline significant risk reduction of elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels (≥3 mg/L) among women consuming higher amounts of strawberries (≥2 servings/week). Blueberry intake was also examined in the study and no significant association was reported with risks of CVD or CRP.29 Elevated CRP has been significantly associated with inflammation and is a high risk factor of CVD.30 Analyses of NHANES data (1999–2002) revealed a significant inverse association between serum CRP and anthocyanin intakes among US adults.31 These observational data suggest a potential anti-inflammatory role of berry flavonoids, which may contribute to overall reduction of CVD risk.Go to:


As summarized in Table 2, a number of intervention studies have investigated the effects of acai berries, black currants, bilberries, boysenberries, blueberries, chokeberries, cranberries, lingonberries, raspberries, strawberries, and wolfberries in healthy human subjects or in subjects with CVD risk factors.3251 The most significant outcomes of these clinical studies show an increase in plasma or urinary antioxidant capacity, a decrease in LDL oxidation and lipid peroxidation, a decrease in plasma glucose or total cholesterol, and an increase in HDL-cholesterol following berry intervention. Since elevated plasma glucose, lipids, and lipid oxidation have been associated with coronary artery disease (CAD),52,53 these data suggest the potential role of edible berries in ameliorating these risk factors. Of 20 trials reviewed, nine involved measures of post-prandial status, in which berry consumption was shown to significantly decrease postprandial oxidative stress, especially lipid peroxidation.3235,3739,42,48 Thus, dietary inclusion of berries may be an effective strategy to counteract postprandial metabolic and oxidative stresses that are associated with CAD.54 In addition, specific berries, such as bilberry and black currant extracts, chokeberry juice, cranberry extracts, and freeze-dried strawberries were shown to have favorable effects on plasma glucose or lipid profiles in subjects with metabolic risk factors including type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, or metabolic syndrome.37,47,50,51 These studies ranged in duration from 4 to 12 weeks and used conventional berry products or purified anthocyanin extracts, suggesting that both these forms of delivery are effective. Berries were also shown to increase plasma antioxidant capacity36 and to decrease lipid peroxidation42 in smokers who are at high risk of developing CVD.55

Table 2

Summary of berry intervention trials.

ReferenceDurationStudy designStudy subjectsControlBerry interventionSignificant findings
Cao et al. (1998)32PostprandialControlled trialEight healthy female subjects (mean age, 67 ± 0.6 years)Coconut drink240 g strawberries added to the control drinkIncrease in plasma vitamin C, serum and urine antioxidant capacity (P < 0.05)
Paiva et al. (1998)33PostprandialControlled trialSeven healthy elderly women (mean age, 67 ± 0.6 years)378 mL coconut drink240 g fresh, whole, and homogenized strawberries added to the control drinkDecreased plasma carotenoids versus baseline (P < 0.02)
Marniemi et al. (2000)34Eight weeks and postprandialRandomized controlled trialSixty healthy adults (mean age, 60 years)500 mg calcium gluconate100 g deep-frozen berries (bilberries, lingonberries, or black currants); 240 g berries in postprandial studyIncrease in serum ascorbate (P < 0.05); slight decrease in LDL oxidation (P = 0.07), and slight increase in serum antioxidant capacity (P = 0.08) in berry group; decrease in LDL oxidation in postprandial study (P < 0.05)
Pedersen et al. (2000)35PostprandialRandomized controlled trialNine healthy female volunteers (mean age, 31 ± 2 years)9% (w/v) sucrose in water (500 mL)500 mL blueberry juice (Beutelsbacher, Germany) or cranberry juice (Ocean Spray, UK)Increase in plasma antioxidant capacity, vitamin C and phenols with cranberry juice (P < 0.05); no effects with blueberry juice
Van den Berg et al. (2001)36Three weeks with a two-week washout periodRandomized controlled crossover trialTwenty-two male smokers (mean age, 33 ± 11 years)Control drink (330 mL)Fruit drink (330 mL); 30% clarified blueberry juice concentrate (SVZ International, the Netherlands)Increase in vitamin C, carotenoids, and plasma antioxidant capacity with fruit drink (P < 0.05)
Simeonov et al. (2002)37Three months and postprandialBaseline and post intervention effectsSixty-two patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus (median age, 46.2 ± 4.04 years)None200 mL chokeberry juice (Aronia melanocarpa)Decrease in fasting glucose, HbA1C, and lipids (P < 0.001) in the three-month intervention
Kay and Holub (2002)38Postprandial phases, one week apartSingle-blind crossover studyEight middle-aged male subjects (mean age, 47 ± 2 years)High-fat meal (McDonald’s Corp.)High-fat meal supplemented with 100 g freeze-dried wild blueberry powderIncrease in serum antioxidant status (P < 0.05)
Mazza et al. (2002)39Postprandial phases, one week apartSingle-blind crossover studyFive male subjects (mean age, 47 ± 2 years)High-fat meal (McDonald’s Corp.)High-fat meal supplemented with 100 g freeze-dried wild blueberry powderIncrease in serum antioxidant status (P < 0.05)
Bub et al. (2003)40Ten weeksRandomized crossover studyTwenty-seven non-smoking men (mean age, 35 ± 4 years)NoneAnthocyanin-rich juice containing aronia, blueberries, and boysenberries in a mixture of apple, mango, and orange juice (76% w/w water); 330 ml/dayDecrease in plasma TBARS; decrease in oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes (P < 0.05)
Chambers and Camire (2003)41Twelve weeksRandomized controlled trialTwenty-seven adults with type 2 diabetes (mean age, 56 ± 13 years)Colored powder as placebo capsules (6 capsules/day)Cranberry juice concentrate powder (6 capsules/day)No effect on fasting glucose, lipids, or HbA1C (P > 0.05)
McAnulty et al. (2005)42Three weeks or postprandialRandomized controlled trialTwenty smokers (mean age: blueberry group, 26 ± 3.3; control group, 29 ± 4.2 years)Usual diet and lifestyle with restriction of large amounts of fruits and vegetables and all vitamin supplementsAcute or daily consumption of 250 g blueberriesDecrease in lipid hydroperoxides in blueberry group versus control at 3 weeks (P < 0.001)
Ruel et al. (2005)43Fourteen daysBaseline and post-intervention effectsTwenty-one healthy men (mean age, 38 ± 8 years)None7 mL/kg body weight cranberry juice per day (Ocean Spray’s Light Cranberry Juice, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., USA)Decrease in plasma ox-LDL (P < 0.05); increase in plasma antioxidant capacity (P < 0.05) at 14 days
Ruel et al. (2006)44Four successive 4-week phase (including 4-week run-in phase)Placebo-controlled trialThirty healthy men (mean age, 51 ± 10 years)Placebo juice (Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., USA); 500 mL/dayIncreasing doses of cranberry juice cocktail (125, 250, 500 mL/day, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., USA) during three successive 4-week periodsIncrease in plasma HDL-cholesterol at the end of 4 weeks of 250 mL/day cranberry juice intake (P < 0.01); decreases in body weight, BMI, and waist circumference at the end of the study (P < 0.05)
Duthie et al. (2006)45Two weeksRandomized controlled trialTwenty healthy female volunteers (mean age, 28 ± 7 years)Natural mineral water with strawberry flavor + sucrose (9 g/ 100 mL); 750 mL/dayCranberry juice (Ocean Spray Cranberry Select, UK); 750 mL/day (3 × 250 mL)No effects on blood or cellular antioxidant status, lipid status, or oxidative DNA damage in cranberry group versus placebo (P > 0.05)
Ruel et al. (2008)46Sixteen weeksSuccessive 4-week phases of increasing dose of cranberry juiceThirty healthy men (mean age, 51 ± 10 years)Placebo juice; cranberry flavored and low calorie (500 ml/day for 4 weeks)125, 250, and 500 mL/day cranberry juice cocktail (Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., USA); each dose for 4 weeksDecrease in plasma ox-LDL, adhesion molecules (ICAM, VCAM), and systolic blood pressure following cranberry intervention at 12 or 16 weeks (P < 0.05)
Lee et al. (2008)47Twelve weeksRandomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind studyThirty type 2 diabetic subjects (mean age, 65 ± 1 years)Placebo capsules (3/day)Cranberry extract powder; 500 mg/capsule; 3 capsules/day (Triarco Industries Inc., USA)Decrease in total and LDL-cholesterol and total:HDL-cholesterol ratio in cranberry versus placebo groups (P < 0.05); no effects on glucose or glycated hemoglobin
Jensen et al. (2008)48PostprandialRandomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trialTwelve healthy subjects (mean age, 19–52 years)Placebo capsules (0.5 g each) prepared by mixing white potato flakes with a purplish food-coloring blend, redrying, grinding, and providing in vegetable-based capsules120 mL juice blend containing acai berry, cranberry, blueberry, wolfberry, and bilberry in addition to other fruit juicesIncrease in serum antioxidant status and inhibition of lipid peroxidation versus placebo (P < 0.03)
Erlund et al. (2008)498 weeksRandomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, trial72 subjects with cardiovascular risk factors (mean age: control group, 58.4 ± 5.6 years; berry group, 57.5 ± 6.3 years)One of four control products each day to match the energy intake in the berry group; 2 dL sugar-water, 100 g sweet semolina porridge, 100 g sweet rice porridge, or 40 g marmalade sweetsTwo portions of berries daily; whole bilberries (100 g) and a nectar of 50 g crushed lingonberries every other day; black currant or strawberry puree (100 g, 80% black currants) and cold-pressed chokeberry and raspberry juice (0.7 dL, 80% chokeberry) on alternating daysInhibition of platelet function; increase in HDL-cholesterol; decrease in systolic blood pressure in berry versus control group (P < 0.05)
Qin et al. (2009)5012 weeksRandomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, trial120 subjects with dyslipidemia (mean age: placebo group, 55.1 ± 5.4 years; anthocyanin group, 55.3 ± 5.0 years)Placebo capsules pullulan and maltodextrin (2 capsules twice daily)Anthocyanin capsules 320 mg/day (2 capsules twice daily); 17 different natural purified anthocyanins from bilberry and black currantIncreased HDL-cholesterol, decreased LDL-cholesterol, decreased mass and activity of plasma cholesteryl ester transfer protein in anthocyanin group versus placebo (P < 0.05)
Basu et al. (2009)51Four weeksBaseline and post-intervention effectsSixteen women with metabolic syndrome (mean age, 51 ± 9.1 years)None50 g of freeze-dried strawberry powder as beverage (California Strawberry Commission, USA)Decrease in total and LDL-cholesterol and lipid peroxidation at 4 weeks versus baseline (P < 0.05)

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Abbreviations: ICAM, intracellular adhesion molecule; VCAM, vascular cell adhesion molecule; ox-LDL, oxidized LDL.

Of 20 trials conducted using different varieties of fresh and processed berry products, only two showed a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure: one was conducted in healthy men following cranberry juice supplementation46 and the other was in subjects with CVD risk factors following mixed berry supplementation.49 These data suggest a need for future studies on berry supplementation as a potential dietary therapy for the management of pre-hypertension or hypertension. Interestingly, none of these clinical studies showed any significant effect of berry intervention on biomarkers of inflammation, with the exception of a significant decrease in adhesion molecules following cranberry juice supplementation in healthy volunteers.46 This suggests a need to investigate the effects of cranberry intervention, per se or in combination with other berries, on adhesion molecules or inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein or interleukins in subjects with the pro-inflammatory conditions metabolic syndrome or diabetes mellitus.56,57Go to:


Oxidative stress and inflammation play a pivotal role in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis and CVD.58,59 Several lines of evidence indicate a role for berry anthocyanins in significantly decreasing oxidative damage and inflammation in cellular and animal models of CVD. Youdim et al. have reported the incorporation of elderberry anthocyanins by endothelial cells, following a 4-h incubation at a concentration of 1 mg/mL. In addition to the cellular bioavailability, elderberry anthocyanins significantly decreased cytotoxicity caused by chemical inducers of oxidative stress.60 Anthocyanins from blackberry extract were shown to protect against peroxynitrite-induced oxidative damage in human umbilical vein endothelial cells.61 Mulberry anthocyanins have also exhibited antioxidative and antiatherogenic affects, by inhibiting oxidation of LDL and formation of foamcells, respectively, in an in vitro model of atherosclerosis.62 Anthocyanins from berries commonly consumed in the United States, such as blueberries and cranberries, have been reported to reduce TNF-α induced upregulation of inflammatory mediators in human microvascular endothelial cells.63 In an 8-week study, DeFuria et al. have shown the attenuation of inflammatory gene expressions in male C57Bl/6j mice fed a high-fat diet supplemented with blueberry powder versus the unsupplemented group. This study also showed the protective effects of blueberries against insulin resistance and hyperglycemia, thus reducing the risk factors for CVD.64 In a rat model of prediabetes and hyperlipidemia, Jurgoski et al.65 further demonstrated decreased activities of inńtestinal mucosal disaccharidases (maltase and sucrose) following dietary supplementation with chokeberry fruit extract for 4 weeks. These animal and in vitro data show the potential of berries to ameliorate inflammation, glucose, and lipid abnormalities that contribute to CVD.

Nitric oxide (NO), when formed through activation of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), has proinflammatory effects, leading to increased vascular permeability, induction of inflammatory cytokines, and the formation of peroxynitrite, a strong oxidizing agent.66 Pergola et al. have reported inhibitory effects of the anthocyanin fraction of blackberry extract on NO biosynthesis in the murine monocyte/macrophage J774 cell line stimulated with lipopolysaccharide. The study also reported that blackberry anthocyanin extract inhibited inducible iNOS protein expression, thereby decreasing the inflammatory response in macrophages and inhibiting the formation of foam cells.67 While increased iNOS expression leads to the proinflammatory effects of NO, generation of NO by endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) plays a crucial role in maintaining cardiovascular homeostasis by favorably modulating blood pressure and reducing endothelial dysfunction. Xu et al. and Lazze et al. have reported the upregulation of eNOS by cyanidin-3-glucoside in bovine artery endothelial cells, and increased protein levels of eNOS by anthocyanin treatment (cyanidin and delphinidin) in human umbilical vein endothelial cells.68,69

Berry anthocyanins have also been shown to affect lipid metabolism in cellular and animal models of dyslipidemia. Administration of chokeberry juice for 30 days in rats fed a standard or 4% cholesterol-containing diet, showed the anti-hyperlipidemic effects of chokeberry juice in the cholesterol-fed group.70 Purified anthocyanins from blueberries and strawberries added to drinking water were shown to prevent the development of dyslipidemia and obesity in mice fed a high-fat diet for a period of 90 days.71 Anthocyanin treatment of human umbilical vein endothelial cells was further demonstrated to regulate cholesterol distribution by interfering with the recruitment of tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factors (TRAF)-2 in lipid rafts, thereby inhibiting CD40-induced proinflammatory signaling.72

Thus, on the basis of these data, berry anthocyanins may exert cardioprotective effects by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation through effects on iNOS activity, interfering with carbohydrate digestion and reducing glucose absorption, favorably modulating dyslipidemia, and upregulating eNOS expression so as to maintain normal vascular function and blood pressure.Go to:


Berries are emerging as a dietary source of multiple compounds and nutrients, including anthocyanins, flavonols, vitamins, and fiber, that reduce CVD risk. While limited epidemiological data inversely associate consumption of berries with inflammation and CVD, these conclusions need to be strengthened in future case-control or cohort studies investigating the long-term health benefits of berries in specific populations. Clinical studies in healthy humans, subjects with diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, or in smokers, show a significant decrease in CVD risk factors, especially glucose, lipids and lipid peroxidation, and systolic blood pressure, following berry intervention. The principal mechanisms of action underlying the potential cardio-protective effects of berries include counteracting free radical generation, attenuating inflammatory gene expression, downregulating foam cell formation, and upregulating eNOS expression; through these effects, progression of atherosclerosis is slowed and normal vascular function and blood pressure are preserved. In light of the decrease in nutritional value that occurs during processing methods, including drying and pasteurization, consumption of fresh or frozen whole berries as part of a regular diet may be better than intake of juices or extracts, which do not have the same nutritional profiles as whole berries. Since some clinical studies have also found antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic effects of encapsulated berry supplements, these forms may be suitable for the management of specific metabolic conditions.

Further rigorous, prospective studies are needed. These need to involve large patient populations with outcomes of berry intervention that include not only CVD biomarkers, but also “hard” cardiovascular and metabolic endpoints. Also, comparative human intervention studies should address the effects of whole berries versus purified berry anthocyanins, and any potential synergistic actions with other nutrients or medications. Such studies are readily conceived but expensive and challenging to conduct.Go to:


Funding. This work was supported, in part, by the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center General Clinical Research Center grant M01-RR14467, the National Center for Research Resources, and the National Institutes of Health.Go to:


Declaration of interest. Arpita Basu has received past and present support from US Highbush Blueberry Council, the Cranberry Institute, and the California Strawberry Commission for clinical trials. The content of this review does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of these agencies.Go to:

Contributor Information

Arpita Basu, Department of Nutritional Sciences, 301 Human Environmental Sciences, Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA.

Michael Rhone, Department of Nutritional Sciences, 301 Human Environmental Sciences, Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA.

Timothy J Lyons, Harold Hamm Oklahoma Diabetes Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.Go to:


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Massive Loss of Tourist Jobs Will be Lost in the USA (E-Hotelier report)

A staggering 9.2 million jobs could be lost in the U.S. Travel & Tourism sector in 2020 if barriers to global travel remain in place, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) revealed.

US unemployment 2020

The new figure comes from WTTC’s latest economic modelling, which looks at the punishing impact of COVID-19 and travel restrictions on the Travel & Tourism sector.

According to the latest data, 7.2 million jobs in the U.S. have been impacted. If there is no immediate alleviation of restrictions on international travel, as many as 9.2 million jobs – more than half of all jobs supported by the sector in the U.S. in 2019 – would be lost.

WTTC has identified the four top priorities which should be addressed, including the adoption of a comprehensive and cost-effective testing regime at departure to avoid transmission, the re-opening of key ‘air corridors’ such as between New York and London, and international coordination.

The challenge of restoring safe travels in the new normal is one of the biggest issues facing the U.S. as it grapples with a depressed economy devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the Travel & Tourism sector particularly hard.

The WTTC Economic Impact Report for 2019 revealed that Travel & Tourism contributed $1.84 trillion to the U.S. economy and was responsible for more than one in 10 (10.7%) American jobs.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Firstly, we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and we wish them every success in these challenging times. The U.S. government has a real opportunity to lead the international coordination and save millions of jobs globally and across the U.S.

“In 2019, Travel & Tourism was responsible for almost 17 million jobs, which is more than one in every 10 jobs across the U.S., so it’s vital we recover as many as possible to power the economic recovery of the country.

“Globally, eight out of 10 businesses within Travel & Tourism are SME’s, employing millions of people around the world, and all of which rely on a thriving Travel & Tourism sector. It is also one of the most diverse sectors, employing people from all socio-economic backgrounds regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, with almost 50% of whom are women and up to 30% youths.

“WTTC, has been at the forefront in leading the private sector in the efforts to restore international travel and rebuild global consumer confidence with several major initiatives. We launched our ‘Safe Travels’ stamp, to enable travellers to recognise destinations around the world which have adopted health and hygiene global standardised protocols.

“We offer to work closely with the U.S. government to recover international travel whilst avoiding transmission, through a four-point list of top priorities.

“We need to learn to co-exist with this virus and measures should be in place to reactivate both inbound and outbound travel responsibly and avoid further economic and social hardship.”

Across North America, WTTC research shows that between 10.8 million and 13.8 million jobs within Travel & Tourism are at serious risk.

Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO, said: “The numbers show that restarting global travel is an absolute must from an economic and jobs standpoint, and it can be done safely by embracing health and safety guidance and technologies, which have been widely deployed across the travel industry.

“Moving away from quarantines and implementing the practices that we know will work—chief among them rapid, reliable and efficient testing, the universal wearing of masks in public, and the use of contactless technologies—will help restore confidence and growth.”

The resumption of international travel will act as a catalyst to re-energise the global economic recovery. According to WTTC, the four main priorities for the new U.S. administration should be:

  • The re-opening of ‘air corridors’ on vital routes, especially those across the Atlantic to re-establish crucial business travel between major economic hubs
  • The introduction of a testing regime at airports, with globally recognised standards to avoid exporting and importing the virus
  • A commitment to ensure safe and seamless travel, with enhanced health and hygiene measures as well as contactless touchpoints
  • Ensure international coordination to adopt standards that will allow international travel to restart and rebuild consumer confidence.

During 2019, the report detailed how Travel & Tourism was responsible for one in 10 jobs (330 million in total), making a 10.3% contribution to global GDP and generating one in four of all new jobs.


European Tourism Suffers The Second COVID Wave (E-Hotelier Report)

A new surge in Covid-19 cases and the reintroduction of travel restrictions have halted European tourism recovery with international tourist arrivals to Europe down 68% halfway through the year relative to 2019.

European tourism recovery

That is according to the European Travel Commission’s (ETC) latest quarterly report “European Tourism: Trends & Prospects” for Q3 2020 which has been closely monitoring the evolution of the pandemic throughout the year and analysing its impact on travel and tourism.

The easing of pandemic restrictions across Europe led to a slight pick-up in July and August 2020 compared to earlier months, signalling people’s enthusiasm and desire to travel again. However, the recent re-imposition of lockdowns and travel restrictions has quickly halted any chance of an early recovery. Looking at the months ahead, heightened uncertainty and downside risks continue to dampen the outlook with European arrivals set to decline 61% in 2020.

Speaking following the publication of the report, ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander said: “As the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic grips Europe and in advance of the winter season, it is now more important than ever that European nations join forces to agree on common solutions, not only to curb the spread of the virus but also to support tourism’s sustainable recovery, restore travellers’ confidence, and most importantly protect the millions of businesses, jobs, and enterprises that are at risk, so they can survive the economic fallout. The direction of the economic recovery across Europe will depend significantly on the recovery of the tourism sector, a sector which generates close to 10% of the EU’s GDP and accounts for over 22 million jobs.”

Southern European destinations & islands among the most affected

Digging deeper into the above numbers, Mediterranean destinations Cyprus and Montenegro saw the steepest falls in arrivals at a distressing 85% and 84% respectively, attributable to a higher dependency on foreign travellers. Among the other countries most impacted are Romania where arrivals plunged 80%; Turkey (-77%); Portugal and Serbia (both -74%). Island destinations, Iceland and Malta (both -71%) also performed poorly, challenged by their geographical location and strict border restrictions.

On the contrary, Austria appears to have benefitted from pre-Covid-19 winter travel at the start of the year, resulting in a decline of just 44% for the year to September. A greater reliance on short-haul trips also placed Austria in a strong position to attain a less volatile recovery as restrictions in the country have eased much quicker than other countries.

This further highlights the need for member state cooperation across Europe as the disparity of approaches regarding travel restrictions has depressed travel demand and consumer confidence. A recent survey by IATA suggests that travel restrictions are as much a travel deterrent as the perceived risk of catching the virus itself. Harmonised solutions towards testing and tracing, along with quarantine measures will be crucial to mitigating the downside risks across Europe.

Future outlook & shift in traveller preferences

The importance of domestic and intra-European travel cannot be understated in terms of the role it will play in the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months. In a welcome update, the latest forecasts predict a quicker rebound for domestic travel in Europe, surpassing 2019 levels by 2022. European short-haul arrivals are also projected to bounce back faster by 2023, being helped by a swifter easing of travel restrictions and a lesser perceived risk compared to long-haul trips. Overall travel volumes are now projected to return to pre-pandemic levels only by 2024.

The Covid-19 pandemic is also impacting destination choices within particular European countries. The summer season has shown a significant increase in those seeking to travel to rural and coastal locations, clearly as a result of concerns regarding visits to highly-populated urban locations, where it is more difficult to practice social distancing.

This change in travel preferences may ultimately mitigate the issue of over-tourism and allow destinations to boost sustainable tourism demand. Increased travel interest for secondary destinations will relieve some popular tourist hotspots that previously struggled to cope with excessive travel demand and will help spread the economic benefits of tourism more evenly within countries.

The full report and the infographic can be downloaded from ETC’s corporate website under the following link: https://etc-corporate.org/reports/european-tourism-2020-trends-prospects-q3-2020/


Uncorked: The Liquor Control Board of Ontario Vintages $14.95 and Under Corner: And The Winners

Here is a red wine called Hécula from the Yecla appellation in Spain.

Black cherry in colour. Aroma of black cherry, blackberry, lavender and ripe strawberries. On the palate fairly solid tannins that leave a nice fruity ring encapsulated around the tannins. No doubt about it. This is a full-bodied wine but being a big boy wine means you have some responsibilities and that is delivering some flavour! In this case there is flavour and it is tight and there is no jamminess nor flippancy. It is tightly held old big and fat strawberries with black cherry nectar clinging on for dear life. I would say this wine will sail nicely on for the next 5 years and improve. Nice long finish. If General Franco and his big ego were still alive today this might be a wine he would relish as it is big and strong like the Spain he always wanted.

I would think these needs something meaty on the grill or something with a very rich tomatoe and wine sauce like osso Bucco.

(Hécula, Monastrell 2017 DO Yecla, Bodegas Castaño,Yecla, Spain, $14.75, LCBO # 718999, 750 mL, 14%,Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me Blog Rating 92/100).

The further you go in France well the cheaper the wine gets. At one-point southern France supplied the working class of Paris with their cheap and not so tasty wines but they were cheap and my goodness sometimes blended with Algerian wine. Well they have cleaned up their act but it make take a few more years to get the glowing reputation they deserve.

In this case we have a white. It has a golden colour. Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your hair! On the palate it tries to convince you it is an off dry wine with a very quick vaccination like prick of sweetness but it finishes mostly dry with a bit of sweetness left in the after palate. In fact it is a full bodied white with class! On the nose some apricot, peach and honey which if it wasn’t for its initial jab of sweetness just might make you think you were trying a Viognier. A blend of gros manseng, petit corbu and arrufiac. Now how is that for local! The label state this wine is good with seafood, fish and salads a well as cheese. Now that makes sense but I think you would have to be in Southwest France where this wine originated from to make the perfect choice. As for us Canucks this would go well with poultry and I include turkey for that lonely COVID-19 inspired Christmas party you are going to have!

(Plaimont Témoignage Saint Mont 2017, AOC Saint-Mont, Plaimont,Saint Mont, France, $14.95, LCBO # 16208,  Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me Blog Rating 92/100).

No Trophy Pinot Noirs For Me: Part 2

Wrapping up our brief foray into what many call the heartbreak grape due to its thin skin and susceptibility to frost damage otherwise known as the Pinot Noir grape.

This one is a Wakefield Pinot Noir from Adelaide Hills. It has a light ruby colour. As for aromatics a bit of a classic Pinot Noir nose with raspberry, strawberry and cherry. On the palate the tannins are mild and there is no unwelcome acidity. Not a heck of a lot of fruit on the palate. Instead of strength or elegance we have a beggar on the palate which is all the more disappointing as the nose was promising. Wobbly and dazed red cherry and some disoriented cranberry greets us. Short finish. A Pinot Noir to be avoided. Despite winning a Double Gold at the 2020 China Wine and Spirits Awards this wine fails to inspire.

(Wakefield Adelaide Hills 2018 Pinot Noir, Taylors Wines Auburn, South Australia, $19.95, 750 mL, 14%, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 197392, Robert K. Stephen, A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating 83/100).

French Burgundian Pinot Noir at a moderate price that delights is a rare find but I keep hoping.

I hope on with a 2018 Domaine des Verchères. It is ruby coloured. Aromas of raspberry and cherry with perhaps too much wood. On the palate some bitter cherry. The acids are not raging but disproportionate. This Pinot Noir is a dud. I would say don’t bother. I am returning to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario for a refund.  I think this a negociant wine i.e, bottled by a middleman as it is bottled by a numbered company. What LCBO buyer would buy this sorry wine? Surely for $23.95 one deserves more than this miserable concoction!

Brazilian Movie “Half Brother” (“Meio Irmão): A Bloodhound Critic Refusing to Be Taken off the Trail

As a reviewer of films, I have a network of distributors and producers that send me films for review purposes. At this point in time it is feast or even “La Grande Bouffe”. I am being recognized as a film critic. Strange considering that Toronto Film Critic’s Association refuses to admit me to their hallowed ranks as I am not a paid film reviewer. Old boy’s club!

In any case with all films for review I receive there is a link to the film and then lots of press materials such as trailers, photos and a synopsis of the film. I always review the synopsis so I can see who the characters are and list them with an initial who they are to make my review process quicker. Is this synopsis  for “Half Brother” correct? Increasingly I see it as overhyped and if I can say exaggerated. Who can I blame? Perhaps this synopsis is a marketing tool to draw me in to the review or it might simply be an interpretation of the film by whoever prepared the synopsis.

In “Half Brother” the synopsis provided seems to indicate a desperate search by a sister and her half brother for their missing mother Suely. My take after seeing the film is there is no desperate search.

Instead it is a exposé of lower middle class life in Sao Paulo.

It is a dead-end existence where at best survival is the name of the game.

Crime is rampant and an attempt is made to combat it by increased surveillance.

Racism is prevalent towards anyone dark skinned.

Drug use is rampant.

There is no future for youth.

Homophobia is rampant.

Murders are out of control.

Brazilian urban society is terminally ill.

The barely coping working class and lower middle class are increasingly desperate.

The Brazilian police force is overwhelmed and inefficient.

Social media is out of control and unregulated.

There is no linear development of a plot here rather a series of diverse thoughts and views of Brazilian society.

I suppose one might call the film “artsy” but note at the São Paulo International Film Festival it won best Brazilian Fiction Feature Film and Best Film by First-Time Director.

It will be available June 15th on Amazon, Vudu and local cable and satellite providers as well as DVD.

Directed by Eliane Costar.

You can see the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZtVl9IDFLs

Passage of the Day: “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”: Tenderness

“I will never fully know my mother, any more than I will ever know my farther or Connor, or myself. I have been missing the point. The point is not knowing another person, or learning to love another person. The point is simply this: how tender can we bear to be? What good manners can we show ourselves and others into our hearts?”

“Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” by Rebecca Wells, HarperPerennial 1997

Mastroberardino’s Falanghina del Sannio 2018

Having been on a private tour with winemaker, Antonio Capone, from Mastroberardino of several Mastroberardino vineyards in Vesuvius in the Greater Naples area I doubt I will ever forget their name. On occasion we receive a smattering of their wines at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).

The latest is a Falanghina Del Sannio from within the Campanian region of Italy. It is more platinum than gold in colour. On the nose Honeydew melon, Fiorella pear, tangerine and apricot. On the palate it is not like so many Italian whites that are flinty and flighty. My initial sensation is that this is closer to a more full-bodied character. The acids are subdued to the extent I can say this is a pleasant sipping wine. Notes of guava, pear and cactus pear with a short finish. In the LCBO Vintages catalogue Alison Napjus of Wine Spectator calls this wine “light and crisp”. I am puzzled by this comment. This wine is in the middle of being full bodied and light and crisp. This wine would suit a plethora of chicken dishes or for vegetarians Braised White Beans and Greens with Parmesan. Here is the recipe https://cookpad.com/us/recipes/14703112-braised-white-beans-and-greens-with-parmesan

I would add at the end palate there is a brief bit of diluteness that makes the wine particularly thirst quenching.

(Mastroberardino Falanghina Del Sannio 2018, Mastroberardino, Atripalda, Italy $ 20.95, LCBO # 562173, 750 mL, 12.5%, Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating 91/100).

Passage of The Day “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” “Motherhood”

“Let me tell you something, Pal; your mother doesn’t owe you anything. You’re grown-up. She fed you and clothed you and held you, even if she did have a drink in her hand while she was doing it. And however she fucked you up-and I’m sure she did-every mother fucks every kid up-she did it with style, you hear me?”

“Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” by Rebecca Wells, HarperPerennial 1997

“Mutantism on the March” ;Chapter 66 “Rauncho Gonzales Enters the Picture”

After the impromptu party aboard the ship Eno and his crew stumbled into a local seedy bar. After the first round of drinks arrived they turned to anecdotes of their former life in Zorollia and their newer adventures on Earth. While Eno was in the midst of chatting with the cook two mean hoodlums approached Eno and tapped him on the shoulder. The thugs were well acquainted with the notoriety of these “gringos muy loco”. The two ordered drinks for the entire crew and launched into a conversation with Eno.

The topic shifted to marijuana. Did the señor like it? Would el capitano and his crew like to come to a party of el patron for a good time. He would like to discuss some business language with you. There would be many buenas chicas and the best weed and cocaine. Eno and his men were becoming bored at the bar whose owner had turned off the radio blasting with local vibrant music and switched it to the Voice of America. They were fueled up with intoxicants and seemed to want to push their decadence to the limit. One of the hoodlums left the bar to make a telephone call and within 5 minutes 6 luxury limousines arrived with a nasty looking security detail to whisk Eno and his crew to el patron’s party.

El patron was none other than Rauncho Gonzales the notorious gangster who had been successfully murdering and bribing his way out of incarceration for years. As you recall Squid and that Santa Gringo had ousted the corrupt dictatorship in Columbia and replaced them with newly elected servants of the people. They had also legalized the cultivation and transportation of marijuana angering the narco kings who made far more money selling and distributing illegal weed than legal weed. What Santa and Squid had done was to drive down the price of marijuana and make it more widely accessible in the developed world keeping profits completely in the hands of cultivators and transporters. You might want to call it a co-operative. The US Mafia was also very displeased being cut out of the distribution and transportation (smuggling) network. The fact that the local growers were selling directly to smaller dealers in the USA, mostly mutants, angered the Cosa Snotra crime organization and added fuel to the fire of greed. Losing Cuba to Fidel Castro had been a serious blow to narcotics, prostitution and gambling revenues. And now more trouble in Columbia.

Rauncho granted each crew member as a long-lost brother and gestured they should go on the terrace of his huge mansion where the party was in full swing. What premium decadence to be savoured. Champagne flowing like a fountain, great heaps of cocaine and marijuana pre-rolled, half naked women stumbling about and loud rock music. By early morning what might be hell for many was pure delight for the Zorollians who fancied themselves as bad assed pirates. While most the partygoers had fallen in heaps on the floor every crewmember was standing and drinking champagne from the bottle. These group of very raunchy people impressed Rauncho and it only highlighted their reputation as hard living and drinking men. Eno was guzzling vodka from a solid gold tankard that Ruancho had given him as a gift. Rauncho pulled aside Eno and said there was business to discuss so thy took an elevator to a second-floor balcony where formally dressed maids served them a hearty breakfast of huevos rancheros and freshly squeezed orange juice.  Rauncho opened up the discussion, “Listen here Eno. You fancy yourself as a great pirate. Do you smuggle as well as plunder?” Eno relied “Damn right amigo. I am the best pirate around except of course for Bluebeard. I smuggle, kill and rob and love every minute of it.”

“Stateless”: Dominican Racism Against Dominicans of Haitian Descent and Haitians

“Stateless” (”Apátrida”) simply put is a documentary chronicling racism by Dominicans against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. Haiti and The Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in world governed by a seemingly endless stream of corrupt leaders. The Dominican Republic (DR) is not as poor but corruption is rampant.

Lawyer and activist Rosa Iris

The film’s foundation rests on the 1937 extermination of tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent ordered by dictator Rafael Trujillo in an attempt to “whiten” the DR. The racism and hatred continue with the DR Constitutional Court in 2013 revoking the citizenship of Dominicans of Haitian descent retroactive to 1929 leaving some 200,000 people stateless.

We hear the story unfold through the voices of activists, racist nationalists, politicians, stateless victims, lawyers and politicians.

It is rather difficult to see where President Danilo Medina sits as all the television footage we see reveals a politician full of hot air and platitudes. However see the difficulty those of Haitian descent have as they try to prove their Dominican citizenship. Mounds of documents are required and even with the documents it would appear the government bureaucrats express no interest in helping but only putting up roadblocks and hindering. There are also murders, beatings and harassment of activists not to mention a constant spew of hate on social media but the DR government does nothing so Medina’s position becomes clear. Even the Attorney General Rincón is brutally beaten as a result of his defending marginalized groups.

Rosa Iris is both a lawyer and a community activist and herself of Haitian descent. She tries for a seat in Congress but due to very suspicious electoral results is defeated. Voting for pay is common in the DR. Well even after losing the election Iris was the recipient of death threats so she obtained political asylum in the United States.

Unfortunately the Nationalist Movement sounds like Donald Trump demanding a wall be built along the border with Haiti to keep illegals out. Of course, some of the nationalists say they have nothing against Haitians who have been swindled and robbed by their politicians but moving to the DR is not the answer as after all it is clear to them that Haitians are trying to take over the DR and as murderers, rapists and criminals they are not welcome in the DR. These nationalists say nothing about the 1937 genocidal acts nor the retroactive revoking of DR citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent.

The documentary exposes a nasty little problem the DR would rather not have tourists discover the rat-infested nature of Dominican political reality. I was in the DR some 25 years ago blissfully ignorant of its racist history. After watching this documentary I have no intention of returning anytime soon.

The documentary was filmed in the DR and Haiti. It is directed by Michéle Stephenson. You will be able to watch the film on PBS, acclaimed documentary series POV on July 19th. If you are in New York on June 19th at the Tribeca Film Festival and virtually through the Festival from June 12-23 although it will be geoblocked to only those accessing from a computer in the United States.

You can watch the trailer here https://vimeo.com/412429182

“Marry Me However”: Israeli Religious Community Struggles With Homosexuality: Toronto Jewish 2021 Film Festival

This documentary grapples with homosexuality amongst the religious community in Israel. The story is not new about “coming out” but it is new within a religious community where the gays are living within.

The mainstream rabbinical community seems to ignore homosexuality and says get married, have a family and end of story. But the documentary rather exposes the pain and suffering caused by these attitudes. The pain and grief is deep.

Many of the gay men feel pressure to follow the rabbinical doctrine of get married and have children despite the fact the rabbis know of their gayness causing inevitable and tragic marital break-ups. A small amount of Rabbis and Rabinnats are seeing the need for acceptance and tolerance of different sexual orientation.

Following the convention of gay men marrying so many wives feel bitterness toward conventionalism of the rabbis that focus on family as opposed to acknowledging sexual needs no matter what suffering and pain the charade costs. For many rabbis and Israeli’s gayness is nothing but Sodom and Gomorrah.

The children of these gay and straight marriages express no judgement as to good and bad. All they need is love yet the adults are locked in a political and religious battle.

In North America we are presented with individualistic stories of “coming out” but in this documentary it is coming out by those religious Jews wanting to stay within the confines of Jewish Orthodoxy.

One is left with the feeling that homosexuality in Israeli society is some twenty years behind North America and it is clear that the mainstream attitude in religious and secular society in Israel is lagging behind North America and until it catches up the emotional wreckage in Israel is deep.

This is part of the Toronto International Jewish Film Festival which runs until June 13th. The film is geoblocked to Ontario for the festival.

You can see the trailer here https://tjff.com/films/marry-me-however

Tickets can be purchased here https://tjff.com/toronto-jewish-film-festival-2021/

This 63 minute film is directed by Mordechai Vardi and is in Hebrew with English subtitles.

Ontario Moving into Stage One of Reopening on June 11th


Ontario to Move to Step One of Roadmap to Reopen on June 11

Improvements in Key Indicators Allowing Province to Begin the Safe and Gradual Lifting of Public Health Measures

June 07, 2021

Office of the Premier

Table of Contents

  1. Content
  2. Quick Facts
  3. Additional Resources
  4. Related Topics

TORONTO — Based on the provincewide vaccination rate and continuing improvements in key public health and health system indicators, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, will move the province into Step One of its Roadmap to Reopen at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, June 11, 2021.

“Thanks to the ongoing success of Team Ontario’s vaccine rollout and the ongoing improvements in public health trends, we are able to enter step one of the Roadmap and begin to safely and cautiously lift restrictions,” said Premier Doug Ford. “The only reason we’re able to do so is because of the enormous sacrifices made by individuals, families and communities across Ontario. As we begin to enjoy the benefits of the first step in our roadmap like meeting friends on a patio or visiting your favourite local store, please do so safely by continuing to follow all public health guidelines.”

In order to safely enter Step One of the Roadmap to Reopen, Ontario needed to have vaccinated 60 per cent of adults with at least one dose for two weeks or longer, ensuring the first dose offers a strong level of protection against COVID-19. As of June 6, 2021 at 8:00 p.m., 72 per cent of the 18+ population in Ontario had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine with over 10 million doses now having been administered.

Before entering Step One, the province also needed to see continued improvement in key public health and health system indicators. During the period of May 25 to 31, 2021, the provincial case rate decreased by 35.1 per cent. As of June 6, the number of patients with COVID-19 in ICUs is 497, including 31 patients from Manitoba, as compared to 687 two weeks ago.. The province’s situation is currently exceeding the best-case scenario presented in recent modelling, which indicated the province would reach below 1,000 new daily infections by June 30, 2021. The province expects these trends to continue over the coming days before entering Step One.

“Thanks to the tremendous efforts of every Ontarian, beginning June 11 we will be able to cautiously lift public health measures in the settings we know are safest,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “While this is exciting news, as we move to enter Step One of Ontario’s Roadmap it remains critical that all Ontarians continue to follow public health advice and roll up their sleeves to receive the vaccine.”

Step One of the Roadmap focuses on the resumption of more outdoor activities with smaller crowds where risk of transmission is lower. It will also permit more limited indoor settings to be open, all with restrictions in place. In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government has amended Step One to also permit indoor religious services, rites and ceremonies, including wedding and funeral services limited to 15 per cent capacity.

Step One of the Roadmap to Reopen includes but is not limited to:

  • Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 10 people;
  • Outdoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, capped at the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres;
  • Indoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services permitted at up to 15 per cent capacity of the particular room;
  • Non-essential retail permitted at 15 per cent capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold;
  • Essential and other select retail permitted at 25 per cent capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold;
  • Outdoor dining with up to four people per table, with exceptions for larger households;
  • Outdoor fitness classes, outdoor groups in personal training and outdoor individual/team sport training to be permitted with up to 10 people, among other restrictions;
  • Day camps for children permitted to operate in a manner consistent with the safety guidelines for COVID-19 produced by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health;
  • Overnight camping at campgrounds and campsites, including Ontario Parks, and short-term rentals;
  • Concert venues, theatres and cinemas may open outdoors for the purpose of rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted concert, artistic event, theatrical performance or other performance with no more than 10 performers, among other restrictions;
  • Outdoor horse racing tracks and motor speedways permitted to operate without spectators; and
  • Outdoor attractions such as zoos, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens with capacity and other restrictions.

Please view the regulation for full details.

In addition, to support students who have worked incredibly hard throughout the pandemic, the government is enabling school boards for public and private elementary and high schools to invite students back for brief outdoor end-of-year celebration. Any in-person school year celebrations will need to meet specific requirements.

The province will remain in Step One for at least 21 days to evaluate any impacts on key public health and health system indicators. If at the end of the 21 days the province has vaccinated 70 per cent of adults with one dose and 20 per cent of adults with two doses and there are continued improvements in other key public health and health system indicators, the province will move to Step Two of the Roadmap.

All public health and workplace safety measures currently in place will remain in effect until the province moves to Step One on June 11, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. During this time, the government will continue to work with stakeholders on their reopening plans, including targeted measures for specific sectors, institutions and other settings to ensure that they have full awareness of when they can begin to safely reopen and how.

“While we have reached the point where we can safely move into Step One, now is not the time to get complacent,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “We must all remain vigilant, as the fight against COVID-19 is not over. By continuing to follow public health advice and measures we can continue to reduce transmission, safeguard health system capacity and save lives.”

No Trophy Pinot Noirs For Me: Part 1

Burgundy is simply the best for Pinot Noir for those whose fat wallets are willing to drop a bundle of cash for trophy wines. Not being a captain of industry, cardiologist, neurologist or a lottery winner my budget is limited.

So laugh away fat cats as I try a $17.95 Rock Point Pinot Noir 2018. Oregon is the state in the United States that many say is the best locale for Pinot Noir.

The wine is ruby coloured. On the nose raspberry, red cherry and pomegranate. Light on the tannins and the acids are well under control. On the palate a very gentle and low-key Pinot Noir with sweet red cherry, raspberry all with a medium finish dusted with a bit of pepper. A solid basic Pinot Noir that shames most French Burgundian Pinot Noirs at double the price.

I would say drink by 2023 but I do not expect it to improve with ageing. As for food wild salmon or duck breast with a cherry sauce or if you have brought some duck rillette from your last trip to France. Do you remember the last time you were in France or across any ocean? Yes before COVID blacklisted air travel.

I can imagine a Silicon Valley tech mogul serving this to his Millennial employees at a summer corporate barbeque with everyone saying the boss really knows his wine!

(Rock Point Pinot Noir 2018, Rock Point, Gold Hill Oregon, $17.95, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 463018, 750 mL, 13.7%, Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating,90/100).

If I were to say Spaetburgunder from Germany deserves a try you might look at me with terrified eyes saying what the hell is that! Well it’s a mouthful but rest easy as it is Germany’s name for Pinot Noir. So let’s try a Königschaffhauser Steingrüble 2018 Pinot Noir. I see it at least a couple times every year as a Liquor Control Board of Ontario release for a few years now and I am sure the wine’s name has been deGermanized so it is called a Pinot Noir and is more marketable in the Canadian market place. By analogy the Australians call Syrah Shiraz while most of the rest of the wine world calls it Syrah.

It’s a little darker than most Pinot Noirs. On the nose it is also more assertive than many Pinot Noirs but the aroma is unmistakably that of the Pinot Noir grape. A nose of very ripe local just picked raspberries, black cherry and cedar planks. On the palate it is easy on the tannins and the acids are well integrated into the wine. It is a full throttle Pinot Noir full of raspberry jam, cassis and cherry pie with a bit of spice in the finish. It could be that the volcanic soil this Pinot Noir grows in gives the wine a strong personality. It would suit grilled beef and lamb. The LCBO catalogue says this would pair well with grilled sausages, lamb or mushroom burgers. Sausages so very German!

I’ll sum things up say this is a rugged Pinot Noir that might settle down over the next couple of years and improve in the bottle.

(Königschaffhauser 2018 Steingrüble Pinot Noir, Qualitätswein Trocken, $18.95, LCBO # 460410,750 mL, 14%, Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating 88/100).