Standup paddleboarding picks up steam

first_imgBRECKENRIDGE | Merrill Mann had always been intrigued when she saw people on standup paddleboards tooling around on area lakes, so when she found a coupon for a rental, she decided to give it a try.Now she’s hooked.This March 22, 2011 photo provided by Three Brothers Boards shows Austin Marvin and tour customers passing the Jackie Robinson Memorial Ball Park on the Halifax River, Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Three Brothers Boards, Justin Murray)“I loved it the first time I tried it,” said Mann, who rides on lakes near her home in Avon. “Anything with the outdoors, being on the water, it’s very serene yet you’re getting a workout. You’re exercising and out in the sun.”Standup paddleboarding has exploded in popularity the past few years. A sort of combination between surfing and kayaking, it has become a hit on oceans, lakes and rivers across the United States and beyond.According to a 2013 Outdoor Foundation recreation report, standup paddleboarding was the most popular outdoor activity for first-time participants, garnering 56 percent of the newbies among all outdoor activities last year.The appeal is simple: It’s relatively easy, available to a wide range of ages and can be done just about anywhere there’s a body of water.“I think the reason it’s blowing up so much is there’s no limitations,” said RJ Murray, co-owner of Three Brothers Boards in Daytona Beach, Florida. “As long as you have a body of water, it doesn’t matter where you are. People who lived away from the ocean and wanted to be in that environment never really had that option before paddleboarding.”Standup paddleboarding is not new.The ancient Hawaiians were believed to use it as transportation between islands and for fishing, while fishermen from Asia to South America have used forms of standup paddleboarding while working their catch.The recent rise in popularity started with surfers and carried on with tourists in beach towns who then took the idea back to where they live.Now, standup paddleboarders can be found cruising along the shore on just about every coast, across mountain lakes, racing down rivers and even participating in group yoga classes atop their boards.“When I first heard people wanted to do yoga classes on paddleboards, I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” said Murray, who started Three Brothers with his brother Justin in 2009. (A third brother, Jason, died earlier that year.) “People are getting really creative with it. I can’t imagine where it will be four years from now.”The equipment certainly has changed.Little more than modified surfboards just a few years ago, boards now are specifically designed for standup paddling, averaging 10 to 12 feet in length and contoured for easy balancing. Ocean boards are typically made of the same materials as surfboards, while boards used on lakes and rivers can be made of inflatable material used for river rafts or injected plastic like kayaks.Optimal size for the paddle is 8 to 10 inches longer than the paddler, to give them leverage.“The boards have gotten more complex, the competition stiffer,” Murray said. “In four years, the sport has done a 180.”The changes have added to the popularity.Because the boards have become so sturdy, standup paddleboarding has become a sport nearly anyone can handle, not just surfers or swimmers.Set up with the right size board and calm water conditions, most first-timers only need about 10 minutes to feel comfortable and start paddling away. It gets a bit more difficult when there are waves or a current, but remains accessible to people from 7 to 77, according to Murray.“You pretty much get up at your own pace,” said Mary Hoffius, who lives in Breckenridge and has been standup paddleboarding for three years. “You start off on your knees and you stand up. The boards are really sturdy now. It’s actually hard to fall off on a still body of water. It took me no time.”Like any sport, standup paddleboarders have picked up the pace within the sport, pushing the boundaries to new, adrenaline-fueling levels.Races have cropped up across the country. Paddlers also have joined surfers in hanging 10, using their paddles for added speed while riding the waves into shore.But most riders do it just for the enjoyment of being out on the water and in the sun, enjoying the scenery while getting a decent upper-body and core workout. “It’s not like you’re racing down the side of a mountain on a mountain bike and all the danger that goes along with that, so it’s a more low-key activity,” Mann said.last_img read more

More want local beef, but fewer want tough job of cutting…

first_imgDES MOINES, Iowa | Kent Weise loves his work, but after 38 years slaughtering cattle, lugging carcasses that can weigh more than 1,000 pounds and slowly, methodically slicing cuts of meat, he understands why few people want to go into the business anymore.“It’s killing cows. It’s blood and guts,” said Weise, who runs a small meat company here with his wife, and whose own three children have no interest in following in his footsteps.Demand for locally produced beef is surging as never before, but the butchers who for generations have prepared and sold meat to customers and markets are a dwindling profession.Thousands of butchers are approaching retirement age across the country.And owners of small meat companies tell similar stories about the difficulty finding younger people willing to take over, or even to work in the businesses. Farmers with small operations now often have to truck their cattle 50 or 100 miles to be processed. Higher transportation costs are being passed along to customers at farmers markets, restaurants and groceries that specialize in locally grown meat.Weise, 58, dressed in a blood-smeared white jacket as he cuts fat from a slab of beef, says that when he retires, his business likely will close.Meat-cutting businesses have been sprinkled across the country for generations. In 1990, there were 1,200 federally inspected livestock slaughterhouses in the U.S., but by 2010 the number had dropped to 800. State-licensed operations have also declined.In Iowa, there now are 140 or fewer small meat processors, compared to about 450 in the 1960s, said Marcia Richmann, executive director of Iowa Meat Processors Association.With purchases of natural, organic and grass-fed beef up 20 percent over a two-decade period, the gap between demand for meat and butchers to process it may only grow.An analysis in Minnesota showed about two-thirds of the people who own small meat-processing businesses in the state are nearing retirement age, with no succession plan.The butchers and small processors who are still in business are swamped with demand.“We’re booked like four to five months in advance,” said Mike Jessee, who owns Dee-Jays Custom Butchering in Fredericktown, Ohio. Meanwhile, “finding anyone to help to work is harder and harder.”Many processors said they began the work soon after high school. The job was hard but dependable. Meat-cutters made a median of $13.75 an hour in 2012, according to federal data, but owners of small meat-cutting businesses can make significantly more.“It’s all I know what to do,” said Weise.There is plenty to keep him busy.Working out of an 87-year-old brick building, within sight of the state Capitol’s gold dome, Weise slaughters about 15 animals a week and then hangs the carcasses to age for a couple weeks, increasing their tenderness. On most days, he and several employees work around a table, cutting meat with knives kept razor-sharp by files that dangle from their waistbands.There’s a little conversation as the workers, some with their sweatshirt hoods pulled up to ward off the cold, slice through the beef, toss fat into a bin, put the meat onto a tray and then grab another section.Processors say that younger people now have less grueling work options.“Our son said, ‘Dad, I’m going to be an engineer,’ and he is an engineer,” said Richmann, who ran a meat market with her husband in Clarence, Iowa, for decades.Lauren Gwin, a professor at Oregon State University who coordinates the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, said the demand for specialty meat is prompting some new businesses to open, but that getting started is costly and difficult.“It’s a complex business,” said Gwin, whose group was formed to help overcome such issues. “You have to know a lot of things to run a business like this.”As businesses close, ranchers like Mike Holden in Scranton, Iowa, worry they’ll need to travel farther to process their animals. Holden now trucks his cows about 80 miles to be butchered.Would the resulting price increases be enough to scare away customers who prefer local suppliers over the larger and more distant slaughterhouses that supply supermarkets?Kathy Davis, who buys meat for her family of six just a few miles away from her home in Collins, Iowa, said she’s not sure.“If there was a huge price difference between the grocery store and what I paid, I might stop buying it,” she said. “I hope not, but I might have to.”last_img read more

Exporting Philly: Cheesesteaks, ices and pretzels go global

first_img This April 2, 2015 photo shows pretzels a Wawa convenience store in Philadelphia. Wawa and other Philadelphia-area purveyors are taking their regional brands far beyond the mid-Atlantic region. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) This April 2, 2015 photo shows pretzels a Philly Pretzel Factory location in Philadelphia. Philly Pretzel Factory and other Philadelphia-area purveyors are taking their regional brands far beyond the mid-Atlantic region. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) PHILADELPHIA | The man intent on taking the Philly cheesesteak global saw a familiar sight from home on a recent trip to Florida: a Wawa.The hoagie-making, coffee-brewing convenience and gas chain from the Philadelphia area is pushing hard into the Sunshine State, opening more than 60 stores since 2012 with another 25 planned by the end of the year.Albie Misci, sales director at cheesesteak chain Tony Luke’s, knows the idea. This April 2, 2015 photo shows pretzels a Rita’s Italian Ice location in Philadelphia. Rita’s and other Philadelphia-area purveyors are taking their regional brands far beyond the mid-Atlantic region. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)center_img He’s helping take Philly’s most famous culinary treat to Florida, California and even the Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain.“The cheesesteak has grown from a Philadelphia sandwich, a local food, to a national sandwich. Everyone’s familiar with it,” Misci said in a recent interview. “When we’re in Las Vegas or in L.A., they’ll come up to us and say, ‘Hey, Tony Luke’s, you’re from Philly!’”Other staples from the City of Brotherly Love, including its beloved soft pretzels and water ice, are also going global, as their Philadelphia-based purveyors aggressively expand into national — and international — chains.Tony Luke’s has 22 stores, seven more in development and plans to grow to 360 locations within a decade.Philly Pretzel Factory, started in 1998 as a single stand by friends who hawked pretzels as kids on the side of a busy Philadelphia boulevard, has 150 stores and plans to open 350 more and break into the international market by 2020.Rita’s Italian Ice, already up to 600 stores in the U.S., is expanding into six Middle Eastern countries and is looking to Canada and Mexico for further growth.Rita’s chief development officer, Eric Taylor, said its Philadelphia-bred franchisees — and customers who’ve relocated from the city or vacationers hitting the beach, the theme parks or Phillies spring training — have an emotional connection to the product.“They want to bring water ice out to Arizona or Utah or wherever they are now,” Taylor said of the sugary frozen treat, which is more sorbet than snow cone. “They take pride in bringing a Philly staple back to their home market.”Wawa skipped straight from its footprint in five mid-Atlantic states to Florida, where census data shows 3 percent of residents are natives of Pennsylvania and 8 percent are from other northeast states.The company has stores in the Orlando and Tampa areas popular with retirees and tourists — including the one Misci saw near the Phillies’ complex in Clearwater. It’s opening three stores at once next week in Fort Myers.Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce said the reception has been so strong in Florida, the company will continue to open 25 new stores there and 25 in the mid-Atlantic — further into northern New Jersey and south into Virginia — each year.Across the company and employee-owned chain, its made-to-order Philadelphia-style hoagies remain a top seller.“It speaks to the unique connection Philly foods have with people,” Bruce said.Philadelphia’s boom in gastronomic exports comes at a heady time for the city.It’ll host Pope Francis in September and the Democratic National Convention next July and a major soccer championship this summer.It’s also been featured prominently on the television shows “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The Goldbergs,” which recreated Veterans Stadium — the former home of the Phillies and Eagles — for a recent episode.The brands built around the city’s iconic foods are following a trail blazed by every major chain before it — growing from a single store into a regional player before leaping into less familiar territory, said Penn marketing professor David Reibstein.Think Starbucks, which started as a single-store operation at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, or one of its main rivals, Dunkin Donuts, which evolved into a global coffee and pastry giant from a small chain of shops in the Boston area.“Part of what it takes is, is that city or that region known for those particular products,” said Reibstein. “We can think about Italian shoes. That’s really well-known and if you say it’s Italian, that must be really good. But, if we saw Slovakian shoes, no one’s going to be really enamored with that.” This April 2, 2015 photo shows pretzels at a Philly Pretzel Factory in Philadelphia. Philly Pretzel Factory and other Philadelphia-area purveyors are taking their regional brands far beyond the mid-Atlantic region. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)last_img read more

California vaccine bill: Personal rights vs. public health

first_imgSACRAMENTO, Calif. | California lawmakers are hearing renewed discussions on a bill that would prevent parents from seeking vaccination exemptions for their children because of religious or personal beliefs.The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday became the second legislative body to consider the measure that has sparked a debate pitting personal rights against public health.Supporters say the bill would increase the number of schoolchildren who are vaccinated in the wake of a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December.Carl Krawitt, of Corte Madre near San Francisco, told lawmakers he feared for his 6-year-old son’s life during the outbreak because the boy, Rhett, couldn’t be vaccinated while he was treated for leukemia.Opponents say the bill is unconstitutional and tramples on personal rights. Parents told lawmakers they would be forced to homeschool and that there’s no public health crisis.last_img read more

Vienna traffic signals go red and green, gay and straight

first_img A street light with a same gender pair is pictured in dowtown Vienna, Austria, May 12, 2015. These lights were set up by city officials until June, just in time for the annual Life Ball, where celebrities will rub shoulders with party-goers dressed in little more than body paint and cross-dressers in wild costumes at the charity event supporting AIDS research. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak) The lights are being erected at 47 crossings and will stay up until June. Vienna hosts several events linked to tolerance during that time, including the Life Ball, Europe’s biggest charity event for AIDS and HIV research, and the Eurovision Song Contest, won last year by Austrian cross-dressing pop star Conchita Wurst.Pedestrians were neutral to positive when asked Tuesday whether they liked the concept.“I think this is a great idea,” said Clemens Bendtner. “The topic of equality and equal treatment is a very important issue, and it is getting some attention through the campaign.”But not all Austrians are amused. The Freedom Party has announced it is lodging a criminal complaint against Vienna Councilwoman Maria Vassilakou, who is in charge of traffic issues in the city.Party officials say the lights contravene traffic regulations and are a waste of taxpayers’ money at a cost of 63,000 euros ($70,000).The city in turn says that the lights conform to laws — and are meant not only to show tolerance. Municipal officials say they also hope the signals will draw more attention from pedestrians and reduce jay-walking. VIENNA | Some Vienna pedestrian traffic lights are suddenly not only red or green. They’re also gay or straight.And Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party is livid.Over the past few days, the city started setting up lights at pedestrian crossings that show pairs of figures instead of the usual stick men. Some depict a man and a woman. Others, two women. Still others, two men. All couples are complete with hearts. A street light with a same gender pair is pictured in dowtown Vienna, Austria, May 12, 2015. These lights were set up by city officials until June, just in time for the annual Life Ball, where celebrities will rub shoulders with party-goers dressed in little more than body paint and cross-dressers in wild costumes at the charity event supporting AIDS research. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)center_img People wait at a street light with a same gender pair in dowtown Vienna, Austria, May 12, 2015. These lights were set up by city officials until June, just in time for the annual Life Ball, where celebrities will rub shoulders with party-goers dressed in little more than body paint and cross-dressers in wild costumes at the charity event supporting AIDS research. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak) A street light with a same gender pair is pictured in dowtown Vienna, Austria, May 12, 2015. These lights were set up by city officials until June, just in time for the annual Life Ball, where celebrities will rub shoulders with party-goers dressed in little more than body paint and cross-dressers in wild costumes at the charity event supporting AIDS research. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)last_img read more

Google antsy as California slow on self-driving car rules

first_imgMOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. | Hustling to bring cars that drive themselves to a road near you, Google finds itself somewhere that has frustrated many before: Waiting on the Department of Motor Vehicles.The tech titan wants the freedom to give the public access to self-driving prototypes it has been testing on public roads since the summer. Before granting that permission, California regulators want Google to prove these cars of the future already drive as safely as people.The Department of Motor Vehicles was supposed to write precedent-setting rules of the road by last Jan. 1. Nearly a year later, it is still struggling. After all, the agency is geared to administering driving tests and registering cars, not settling complicated questions the technology raises. This Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, photo provided by Virginia Tech shows Greg Brown, technology development program administration specialist, sitting behind the wheel of a self-driving car during a test ride on a local street in Blacksburg, Va. The vehicle’s alert system is handing over control to Brown as it disengages from self-driving mode. (Justin Fine/Virginia Tech via AP) This Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, photo provided by Virginia Tech shows Virginia Tech Center for Technology Development Program Administration Specialist Greg Brown sits behind the wheel of a driverless car during a test ride showing the alert system handing over automation to the driver while driving on a local Blacksburg, Va. street. (Justin Fine/Virginia Tech via AP) This Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, photo provided by Virginia Tech shows the Automated Vehicle Info Center display panel of a self-driving car during a test ride showing the alert system handing over control to the driver on a local street in Blacksburg, Va. (Justin Fine/Virginia Tech via AP) If the cars’ advanced sensors and computing power can drive better than humans, do they need a steering wheel and pedals? Would a person even need to be inside? Google says no on both.Regulators don’t want to be blamed for unnecessarily stalling the arrival of robo-chauffeurs that can see farther, react faster and don’t text, speed or fall asleep. They’ve implored Google and traditional automakers also developing the technology to share safety data, but companies in competition don’t willingly reveal trade secrets.Delay is not what Google had in mind when it pushed the 2012 legislation that made California one of the few states officially to authorize self-driving cars. Google’s hope was to trade the independence to innovate without government oversight for regulatory certainty.Three years later, both a company that abhors bureaucracy and a DMV struggling to write rules beyond its expertise are exasperated.While self-driving cars are not close to being widely available, Google hinted in 2014 it wanted to get self-driving cars into public hands as early as 2016, probably starting with employees outside its small corps of self-driving car experts.More recently, the project’s leader, Chris Urmson, has said he doesn’t want his eldest son to need a driver’s license when he turns 16 in 3-1/2 years.The bubble-shaped, two-seater prototype can’t go anywhere, any time. It is limited to places Google has surveyed in far greater detail than its online maps. It can’t handle fog or snow. Top speed: 25 mph.Google’s 73 cars are among the 98 test vehicles that California’s DMV has given 10 companies permission to test publicly.Though trained test drivers must sit behind the wheel, Google wants to remove the wheel and pedals for the general public. Its argument: It would be safer to take all control away than expect a person to snap safely to attention in an emergency.As a famously data-driven company, Google proposes a composite sketch of evidence would show its cars are safe.Each day, Google runs more than 3 million miles of computerized driving simulations. Engineers devise challenging real-world situations, then see how the cars respond. A “functional safety analysis” assesses what hardware or software might fail and how to minimize those risks.Public road testing is the last piece. Google reports its cars have been involved in 17 collisions over 2.2 million miles of testing, nearly 1.3 million miles in self-driving mode. While that accident rate appears to be higher than for human drivers (though Google disputes that), accident summaries Google has published say its cars did not cause any accident.Google has pressed California’s DMV to publish regulations far harder than any other company.“Our team is concerned about the delay,” according to an invitation for a conference call last December that Google sent California officials, who released it under a public records act request.Both before and after, Google representatives consistently checked with officials at the DMV and California State Transportation Agency about the status of rules. State officials have trooped from Sacramento to Silicon Valley for test rides, while Google’s technical experts and lobbyists have headed to the capital for briefings or talks about regulation writing.“The worst thing would be for California, sort of the birth state of this technology, to accidentally sort of shut things down,” Sarah Hunter, public policy director at the experimental lab Google spun off to focus on ambitious projects such as self-driving cars and Internet-beaming balloons, said at a public presentation in September.Shortly before, she jokingly jabbed a co-panelist who is the top DMV self-driving car official. Asked when self-driving technology would be “mainstream,” Hunter responded: “Whenever the DMV pass their operational regulations.”There’s frustration to go around.At the DMV, officials have pleaded for input from Google and traditional automakers to help set a clear, objective safety standard. At a meeting in May in Washington, traditional automakers joined Google in voicing concern that regulation — particularly in California — could stifle innovation.There are no federal regulations on self-driving cars.Still, California officials are “taking cues” from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the state’s secretary of transportation, Brian Kelly. NHTSA’s official position holds that any state which authorizes self-driving cars should require a licensed driver who can take control.“My sense of it is we’re getting a go-slow message from the federal government,” Kelly said. He said that made sense for safety, but as a state famous for innovation, “we want to work through some of those sticky issues.” He hopes the DMV will publish draft rules for public input by year’s end.In interviews, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind and his boss, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, said the federal government’s message to California was “go safe.” Intriguing as the technology’s life-saving potential may be, California should not hastily write new regulations, despite “pressure” to do so, Rosekind wrote DMV Director Jean Shiomoto in April.Over the summer, Google expanded its road testing from Silicon Valley to Texas, where state law would not prohibit cars without pedals and a wheel. Some within California’s DMV wondered whether Google’s move was motivated by frustration with its home state.Contact Justin Pritchard at read more

Arctic farming: Town turns to hydroponics for fresh greens

first_img In this Oct. 18, 2016 photo taken in Anchorage, Alaska, Dan Perpich talks about his company, Vertical Harvest Hydroponics, which partnered with an Alaska Native corporation to grow produce inside an insulated shipping container in the northwest Alaska town of Kotzebue. The goal is to grow kale, lettuces and other greens year-round, despite the region’s unforgiving climate. (AP Photo/Rachel D’Oro) In this Oct. 19, 2016 photo provided by Will Anderson, shoots of crops are seen inside an indoor hydroponics farm owned by a local Alaska Native corporation in Kotzebue, Alaska. The goal of the venture is to grow kale, lettuces and other greens year-round, despite the region’s unforgiving climate. (Will Anderson via AP) In this May 28, 2016 photo provided by Will Anderson, members of a local Alaska Native corporation board from left, Martin Shroyer, Calvin Schaeffer, Claude Wilson, Harold Lambert and Kathy Sherman watch the first crop planting inside the corporation’s new indoor hydroponics farm in Kotzebue, Alaska. The goal of the venture is to grow kale, lettuces and other greens year-round, despite the region’s unforgiving climate. (Will Anderson via AP) ANCHORAGE, Alaska | The landscape is virtually treeless around a coastal hub town above Alaska’s Arctic Circle, where even summer temperatures are too cold for northern-growing forests to take root.Amid these unforgiving conditions, a creative kind of farming is sprouting up in the largely Inupiat community of Kotzebue.A subsidiary of a local Native corporation is using hydroponics technology to grow produce inside an insulated, 40-foot shipping container equipped with glowing magenta LED lights. Arctic Greens is harvesting kale, various lettuces, basil and other greens weekly from the soil-free system and selling them at the supermarket in the community of nearly 3,300. In this Oct. 26, 2016 photo provided by Will Anderson, employee Joe Carr stands outside a new indoor hydroponics farm owned by a local Alaska Native corporation in Kotzebue, Alaska. Arctic Greens is harvesting kale, various lettuces, basil and other greens weekly from the soil-free system and selling them at the supermarket in the community of nearly 3,300. (Will Anderson via AP) In this Oct. 19, 2016 photo provided by Will Anderson, Anderson, president of the Native Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corp., stands inside his Native corporation’s new indoor hydroponics farm in Kotzebue, Alaska. The goal of the venture is to grow kale, lettuces and other greens year-round, despite the region’s unforgiving climate. (Will Anderson via AP) “We’re learning,” Will Anderson, president of the Native Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corp., said of the business launched last spring. “We’re not a farming culture.”The venture is first of its kind north of the Arctic Circle, according to the manufacturer of Kotzebue’s pesticide-free system. The goal is to set up similar systems in partnerships with other rural communities far from Alaska’s minimal road system — where steeply priced vegetables can be more than a week in transit and past their prime by the time they arrive at local stores.There are other tools for extending the short growing season in a state with cold soil. One increasingly popular method involves high tunnels, tall hoop-shaped structures that cover crops.But the season can last year-round with indoor hydroponics, which uses water and nutrients to grow vertically stacked plants rooted in a binding material such as rock wool.Anchorage-based Vertical Harvest Hydroponics, which builds enclosed systems out of transformed shipping containers, partnered with Kikiktagruk. The 2-year-old company also sold the system to a farmer in the rural town of Dillingham.“Our vision is that this can be a long-term solution to the food shortage problems in the north,” said Ron Perpich, a company founder. “We’re hoping that we can put systems anywhere that there’s people.”But the operations have challenges, including steep price tags. Startup costs in Kotzebue were around $200,000, including the customized freight container and the price to fly it in a C-130 transport plane from Anchorage, 550 miles to the southeast.The town also relies heavily on expensive diesel power, so operations could eat into profits.In addition, moving tender produce from its moist, warm growing enclosure to a frigid environment can be challenging. And farming can be a largely foreign concept to Native communities with deeply imbedded traditions of hunting and gathering.Still, the potential benefits outweigh the downsides, according to Johanna Herron, state market access and food safety manager.Grown with the correct nutrient balance, hydroponics produce is considered just as safe as crops grown using other methods.“It’s not the only solution,” Herron said. “Hydroponics is just a piece of it, but certainly an excellent thing for communities to look into.”Alaska Commercial Co., which has stores in nearly three dozen remote communities, is carrying Arctic Greens in the Kotzebue store. This week, the Dillingham AC store is beginning to sell produce grown in the local farm’s hydroponics system. The chain will bring the Arctic Greens brand to more locations if expansion plans prove cost-effective, AC general manager Walter Pickett told The Associated Press.“The produce is fantastic, at least what we’ve been seeing out of Kotzebue,” he said. “The customers love it.”Lisa Adan is among the Kotzebue residents who regularly buy the produce. She said there are plans to start providing it at the local hospital’s cafeteria, where she is an assistant manager.Adan said the locally grown greens are superior to the produce that’s transported north.“It’s so much better,” she said. “It tastes like it just came out of your garden.”For now, the new business is operating as a prototype, especially as it enters the long, harsh winter season in Kotzebue, 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle.The town, the regional hub for northwest Alaska villages, is built on a 3-mile-long spit, and many there live a subsistence lifestyle. The community has a chronically high unemployment rate, with the school district, state and local hospital among its major employers.For now, the biggest selling point of the hydroponics produce is freshness. Prices are parallel with greens brought up from the Lower 48.But operators are trying to work out kinks and find ways to lower energy costs, possibly through such alternatives as wind power, according to Anderson.“We want to be a benefit to the community,” he said. “Not only do we want fresher produce, but affordable produce.”Nearly 400 miles to the northeast, the village corporation in the Inupiat community of Nuiqsut is considering acquiring one of the systems. Joe Nukapigak, president of the Kuukpik Corp., said he plans to travel to Kotzebue after Thanksgiving to see hydroponics in action.Unlike diesel-powered Kotzebue, Nuiqsut is just miles from the Prudhoe Bay oil field and taps into far less costly natural gas.Nukapigak envisions the oil industry as a possible customer if hydroponics takes hold in his village. He also likes the thought of same-day freshness as opposed to produce that’s sometimes ruined by the time it arrives.“If we have a local operation like that, it would not get spoiled as much,” he said. “It would be made locally, and that would help.”Follow Rachel D’Oro at read more

‘Beauty and the Beast’ roars with monstrous $170M debut

first_imgNEW YORK | Disney’s live-action “Beauty” was a beast at the box office, opening with an estimated $170 million in North American ticket sales and setting a new high mark for family movies.“Beauty and the Beast” blew past the previous record-holder for G- or PG-rated releases, according to studio estimates Sunday. Last year, Disney’s “Finding Dory” debuted with a then-PG-best $135 million.“Beauty and the Beast” felled many other records, too. It’s the year’s top opening so far and a new best for March releases, and it ranks seventh all-time, not accounting for inflation. This image released by Disney shows Dan Stevens as The Beast in a live-action adaptation of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast.” (Disney via AP) This image released by Disney shows Dan Stevens as The Beast, left, and Emma Watson as Belle in a live-action adaptation of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast.” (Disney via AP) This image released by Disney, Josh Gad, left, and Luke Evans appear in a scene from, “Beauty and the Beast.” (Laurie Sparham/Disney via AP) The film, made for about $160 million, is the latest effort by Disney to re-create one of its animated classics with live action and digital effects. The makeover of the 1991 Oscar-winning film follows previous live-action remakes such as “Alice in Wonderland,” ”Cinderella,” ”Maleficent” and last year’s “The Jungle Book.” Many more are on the way, too, including those for “Dumbo,” ”Mulan,” ”Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”“Nostalgia is a very powerful driver for these films,” said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. “What’s exciting here is there is an opportunity to see these beloved stories in a way that’s never been seen before, but you get to build that on the foundation of something that’s very familiar.“But you don’t get to $170 million because of nostalgia,” Hollis added. “You have to ultimately make these movies great.”“Beauty and the Beast,” directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, found widespread acclaim and some backlash for including what has been called Disney’s first openly gay character. Josh Gad plays Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, who has a very brief “exclusively gay moment,” as Condon described it, late in the film.Though many applauded the character’s subtle twist as overdue progress, some derided it. An Alabama drive-in theater canceled showings before owners screened the film. And after Malaysian censors required an edit of the scene, Disney pulled the film from release in the predominantly Muslim nation. An appeal is to be heard this week.None of that dragged down the movie’s massive opening. It took in $180 million overseas, including $44.8 million in China, Disney said.Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, said any backlash may have only helped “Beauty and the Beast,” which he predicts will eventually top $1 billion globally.“As quote-unquote controversies go, this was a real tempest in a teapot,” Dergarabedian said. “This obviously had zero impact on the movie. In fact, those who raise awareness of a movie for whatever reason are generally only helping that movie do better business. I don’t think that was going to dissuade anyone except the most narrow-minded from seeing this film.”“Beauty and the Beast,” featuring the songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, also got a boost from good word-of-mouth and largely good reviews.Other studios stayed clear of the Disney juggernaut. Last week’s top film, Warner Bros.’ “Kong: Skull Island,” slid to second place with $28.9 million in its second week. The King Kong relaunch has thus far earned $110.1 million domestically.Fox’s R-rated “X-Men” spinoff “Logan,” starring Hugh Jackman, added $17.5 million in its third week to bring its total to $184 million. With “Logan” in third place, the horror sensation “Get Out” slid to fourth and continued to drive audiences. The Jordan Peele directorial debut, from Universal Pictures and Blumhouse, earned $13.3 million, making its four-week total $133.1 million.The only film that tried to open nationwide against “Beauty and the Beast” was the micro-budget horror release “The Belko Experiment,” from Blumhouse Pictures. It earned $4.1 million in 1,341 theaters (or about a third the theaters “Beauty” played in).Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting” sequel, “T2: Trainspotting,” from Sony Pictures debuted in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles, earning $180,000 for a strong per-theater average of $36,000. The sequel to the much-loved 1996 original, which later expands nationwide, has already made more than $20 million in the U.K.Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.1. “Beauty and the Beast,” $170 million ($180 million international).2. “Kong: Skull Island,” $28.9 million ($38.5 million international).3. “Logan,” $17.5 million ($31.5 million international).4. “Get Out,” $13.3 million ($2.9 million international).5. “The Shack,” $6.1 million.6. “The Lego Batman Movie,” $4.7 million ($2.4 million international).7. “The Belko Experiment,” $4.1 million.8. “Hidden Figures,” $1.5 million ($3.5 million international).9. “John Wick: Chapter Two,” $1.2 million ($2.1 million international).10. “Before I Fall,” $1 million.___Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:1. “Beauty and the Beast,” $180 million.2. “Kong: Skull Island,” $38.5 million.3. “Logan,” $31.5 million.4. “A Dog’s Purpose,” $12 million.5. “Sing,” $9.1 million.6. “Split,” $6.8 million.7. “Moana,” $4.6 million.8. “Badrinath Ki Dulhania,” $4 million.9. “La La Land,” $3.7 million.10. “Hidden Figures,” $3.5 million.___Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: .last_img read more

Harry Styles steps in to host Corden’s ‘Late Late Show’

first_imgStyles was introduced as Corden on Tuesday night’s edition of the CBS talk show. He slipped into the role by telling a few jokes during an opening monologue , poking fun at two of late night comedy’s favorite targets, President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.Corden returned the favor by appearing as Styles during a skit. He later resumed hosting duties.Styles is spending the week with Corden on the “Late Late Show” in order to promote his new album. He performed his new single “Carolina” on Tuesday night. He’ll be taking part in Corden’s signature “Carpool Karaoke” segment Thursday. LOS ANGELES | Former One Direction singer Harry Styles has taken over James Corden’s “Late Late Show” for a night. FILE – In this May 9, 2017, file photo, Harry Styles performs on NBC’s “Today” show at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Styles took over hosting from James Corden for a portion of CBS’ “Late Late Show” on May 16, 2017. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)last_img read more

Report: Medicaid enrollments, costs begin to stabilize

first_imgStates are seeing more stability in their Medicaid programs after experiencing a surge in enrollment and costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, suggesting that one of the major pillars of former President Barack Obama’s health overhaul may be nearing its peak.At the same time, they are experiencing a high level of uncertainty as Republicans in Congress continue to advocate for a major overhaul of a program that provides health insurance to tens of millions of lower-income and disabled Americans.Thursday’s report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found Medicaid enrollments in the states slowed considerably to an increase of just 2.7 percent in fiscal year 2017. By comparison, states reported a 13.9 percent increase in enrollment during fiscal year 2015 following implementation of former President Barack Obama’s health care law.The Affordable Care Act allowed states to expand their Medicaid programs to include more lower-income adults without children. Regular Medicaid roles also increased because of the heightened publicity associated with the law, commonly referred to as Obamacare.State spending on Medicaid, the second largest budget item behind education for most states, grew a modest 3.9 percent in the most recent period. That compares to the 10.5 percent increase in spending states saw in fiscal year 2015.Rising costs for prescription drugs and long-term care services, along with increases in payment rates to providers, account for most of the spending growth, the researchers said.Thirty-one states plus the District of Columbia opted for the Medicaid expansion, with the federal government paying most of the cost for the new enrollees. In 2015, an Associated Press survey found more than a dozen states that opted to expand Medicaid had seen enrollments and costs surge beyond their expectations. In a report to Congress last year, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the cost of expansion was $6,366 per person in 2015, about 49 percent higher than anticipated.The federal government currently is picking up 95 percent of the costs for the Medicaid expansion population, something Republicans in Congress say is unsustainable. Recent GOP proposals would have ended the expansion and significantly reduced federal funding for the overall program.The Kaiser Family Foundation report is based on a survey of state Medicaid directors that is conducted annually. The report’s authors said nearly all the Medicaid directors expressed concern about the Republican proposals, which so far have been unsuccessful.“States really need stability to know the funds that they count on from the federal government are not going to disappear overnight,” said Diane Rowland, executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It takes a long time to plan and implement systems.”The federal government pays an agreed-upon percentage of each state’s Medicaid costs, no matter how much they rise in any given year. The Republican proposals would have transformed that into a fixed amount per recipient.Follow Christina Almeida Cassidy on Twitter at .last_img read more