Quilt On World Cafe

Quilt outside of the World Cafe performance studio.

Quilt outside of the World Cafe performance studio. Sydney Schaefer/WXPN hide caption

toggle caption Sydney Schaefer/WXPN

  • “Eliot St.”
  • “Roller”
  • “Padova”

The Brooklyn-based band Quilt has really solidified its sound on its new album, Plaza. The band, which was often labeled “psychedelic” when it started in Boston, has written some more straightforward, hooky songs for Plaza.

This session features two stellar new songs, “Padova” and “Roller,” and both of the band’s lead singers, Anna Fox Rochinski and Shane Butler. They tell their story of a chance meeting with the curator of the Quilts of Gees Bend collection, which inspired the band’s name. Hear the full conversation above, and watch a live performance video below.


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Obama's Nuclear Paradox: Pushing For Cuts, Agreeing To Upgrades

President Obama, speaking in Prague, in 2009, said: “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” While Obama has pushed for a reduction in nuclear arms throughout his presidency, he has also agreed to an expensive upgrade of America’s aging nuclear arsenal. Charles Dharapak/AP hide caption

toggle caption Charles Dharapak/AP

President Obama came into office with a dream of a world without nuclear weapons, and he’s sure to touch on this theme Friday when he becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, site of the world’s first atomic attack.

Yet Obama also has put the U.S. on course to spend around $1 trillion on upgrading its nuclear arsenal over the next three decades and, critics say, fallen far short of what he might have accomplished in disarmament.

Everything about nuclear weapons is extreme: the implications of their use, the costs involved, and the strategic and political paradoxes they create.

Although the world hasn’t seen a nuclear attack since 1945, the U.S. “uses” its strategic weapons every day, advocates say, by having them on hand to deter potential enemies. The most destructive arsenals ever built kept the world from fighting a major war, supporters say.

And a president who has opposed nuclear weapons all his life has wound up asking Congress to fund a new class of ballistic missile submarine, a new stealth bomber, upgrades to the current stock of nuclear weapons, a new cruise missile and billions of dollars of other programs.

The world’s other nuclear superpower, Russia, is rejuvenating its own nuclear arsenal and threatening to develop whole new weapons, including an intermediate range missile and what it claims is a new nuclear torpedo.

This is not where disarmament supporters hoped they’d be by now.

“Obama and his successor, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, have a responsibility to pull back from a nuclear action-reaction cycle that would put both countries at greater risk and block further nuclear reductions for many more years to come,” declared Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association.

Kimball has called on Obama to propose new negotiations on global restraint, urge China, India and Pakistan to freeze their nuclear stockpiles and call for “a new push for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Obama’s Vision

In 2009, the first year of his presidency, Obama laid down what he called a “comprehensive agenda” to get to a nuclear-free world. And on a visit to Japan that same year, he said he hoped to visit Hiroshima while in office.

On Friday, he will make good on that second promise. But the president is nowhere close to the first – though he has always tried to be realistic about it.

“This is a distant goal, and we have to take specific steps in the interim to meet this goal,” Obama said in 2009. “It will take time. It will not be reached probably even in our own lifetimes. But in seeking this goal we can stop the spread of nuclear weapons, we can secure loose nuclear weapons [and] we can strengthen the non-proliferation regime.”

The president did get a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia in 2010 that obliges both sides to reduce their numbers of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550. He did make good on his vow to convene regular nuclear security summits aimed at getting control of loose nuclear material.

But the treaty with Russia, known as New START, did not address tactical nuclear weapons, and critics blasted what they called the imbalance of a deal in which they said Washington made more concessions than Moscow.

This year’s nuclear safety summit in Washington was viewed as a mere victory lap – which Russia boycotted. And by the final year of Obama’s term, it has become clear that the administration will have wound up spending more on new weapons than on nonproliferation. A lot more.

The Navy could spend nearly $100 billion on a class of 12 new submarines to carry the sea-based leg of the nuclear deterrent. The full cost of the Air Force’s new nuclear stealth bomber is secret, but it will amount to at least $55 billion or more. The Air Force wants a new nuclear cruise missile, to upgrade its arsenal of B-61 nuclear bombs, and develop a new ballistic missile to replace its 1970s-era Minuteman III.

A Major Expense

The Pentagon’s plan to recapitalize the nuclear force is so expensive the military services don’t want to pay for it out of their own budgets.

First, Congress created a special fund outside the shipbuilding account to cover the Navy’s new submarine. Then, this spring, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told a House panel that if there’s going to be a special fund for strategic deterrence, it should pay for everything in the triad – the Navy submarine and the new Air Force bomber and ballistic missile.

The strategic deterrence mission remains so critical that new funding should come on top of the services’ base budgets, Pentagon leaders say, because the U.S. can’t risk letting its current systems get too old.

“This is foundational to our survival as a nation,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson argued when he issued his new guidance for the Navy.

Nuclear weapons opponents feel keenly what they call the dichotomy between where Obama began and where he has wound up.

“We’re at this moment where the bookends of his administration are so in conflict with each other,” said Rachel Bronson, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “We’ve come from the grand visions of 2009 to the beginnings of major nuclear modernization and setting up for Cold War 2.0.”

Part By Accident, Part By Design

Obama’s legacy is partly the fault of history and partly the result of his own actions, Bronson said.

The first-term Obama, fresh from his election and eager to pursue a “reset” with Russia, did not anticipate that Putin would invade Ukraine and chill relations so profoundly.

Obama and his administration did, however, know exactly what they were doing when they tried to sell the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to the Senate, Bronson said.

The administration tried to appeal to pro-nuclear senators by agreeing to invest in the nation’s nuclear labs and nuclear weapons infrastructure, which set in motion policies that may long outlast Obama’s term.

Anti-nuclear groups hope the president will use the time he has left to do something big.

“The president must do more than give another beautiful speech about nuclear disarmament,” wrote Lisbeth Gronlund of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The world needs — indeed, is desperate for — concrete action.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists is pushing for Obama to take the American nuclear triad off what it calls “hair-trigger alert,” in which Air Force bombers and land-based missiles and Navy submarines keep ready to launch on a few minutes’ notice. That creates too much risk for a miscalculation or mistake, opponents say.

American policies, along with nuclear modernization in China, Russia, plus North Korea’s ambitions, prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move its “Doomsday Clock” from 5 minutes to midnight to 3 minutes. The Bulletin kept it there earlier this year – to convey how close it fears the world could be to destruction.

“There were bright spots,” Bronson said, “but it didn’t feel like a very optimistic time.”

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To Kill Mosquitoes That Spread Zika, Strike Before They Fly

Maureen LoCascio, with the mosquito control team in Hudson County, N.J., uses a backpack sprayer to spread insecticide against mosquito larvae.

Maureen LoCascio, with the mosquito control team in Hudson County, N.J., uses a backpack sprayer to spread insecticide against mosquito larvae. Hansi Lo Wang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Hansi Lo Wang/NPR

In the marshy woods of Secaucus, N.J., a mosquito can make a happy home.

With water and shade under a canopy of maple trees, you could barely ask for more to start your own bloodsucking family.

For Gary Cardini, though, this is a battleground.

“You want to get them in the water before they’re flying,” explains Cardini, who supervises the field team for Hudson County Mosquito Control. “In the water, they’re captive. You know where they are.”

Mike Iverson, an inspector for Hudson County Mosquito Control, looks for mosquito larvae in a water sample from a marsh in Secaucus, N.J.

Mike Iverson, an inspector for Hudson County Mosquito Control, looks for mosquito larvae in a water sample from a marsh in Secaucus, N.J. Hansi Lo Wang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Hansi Lo Wang/NPR

Every spring, his team of inspectors checks for mosquito larvae in pools of water and then spreads larvicide that kills the larvae after they eat it.

“You need a very small amount to effect a very large decimation of the population,” says one of Cardini’s inspectors, Maureen LoCascio.

Killing bloodsuckers is also a priority across the Hudson River in New York City, as the health department there prepares for the possible spread of the Zika virus during mosquito season.

States like New York and New Jersey have used pesticides for years to deal with the West Nile virus. But now they’re facing Zika — a virus carried by a different kind of mosquito. That’s forcing public health officials to rethink how to reduce mosquito populations.

“One of the most important strategies is to never fall behind when trying to control the Aedes mosquitoes,” says Jay Varma, New York City’s deputy commissioner for disease control.

He cautions that the chances of the Aedes mosquitoes spreading Zika around New York are low. Still, the health department is doubling the number of pesticide treatments for larvae in wetlands this year from three to six times.

But it may not do much to prevent Zika.

Aedes mosquitoes are more likely to grow in “pet food dishes, children’s toys, tarps in people’s backyards, clogged gutters, boats, rain buckets,” according to Greg Williams, superintendent of mosquito control for Hudson County, N.J., where the Aedes mosquito has not been a main target until this year.

“Luckily, it doesn’t fly very far,” Williams says. “If you and your neighbors can keep your yards free of standing water, then you probably wouldn’t need any pesticides to get rid of that mosquito.”

That’s why he’s advising people to “dump and drain” through a public education campaign — while keeping pesticides as an option.

“Sometimes the mosquitoes are still just there for one reason or another, so the spraying is just a little extra added insurance,” he says.

But Laura Harrington, an entomologist at Cornell University who specializes in Aedes mosquitoes, says that may be a waste of money and time. She gets frustrated whenever she hears about aerial spraying of pesticides over wetlands or large bodies of water to try to stop Zika.

“We know a lot about the biology of these mosquitoes, and we know that they do not breed in those types of habitats,” she says.

All the Aedes mosquitoes need is a container of water that can be as small as a bottle cap, which makes it difficult for mosquito control teams to find and treat their breeding sites.

While there’s a relatively low risk of Zika spreading in the U.S., Harrington says she does support using pesticides in infected areas if there is an outbreak.

Studies have shown that pesticides can lower the number of mosquitoes that can spread the West Nile virus. A study published in 2008 found that in Sacramento, Calif., pesticides reduced the mosquito population by as much as 75 percent, thus lowering the risk of human infection.

William Reisen, who co-authored the study, also warns that there’s a critical difference between the mosquitoes carrying West Nile and the ones that can carry Zika.

“The problem with the Aedes mosquitoes is that these are mostly day-active mosquitoes,” says Reisen, a retired entomologist from the University of California, Davis. These mosquitoes aren’t necessarily flying around when the insecticide is sprayed, usually at dusk or nighttime.

It’s another complication as cities watch out for Zika and adjust their mosquito strategies.

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#HeforShe: Why These Guys Speak Up For Women's Rights

They're guys who stand up for women's rights. Left to right: Patrick Segawa and Steven Twinomugisha of Uganda, Mark Gachagua of Kenya and Bryan Eric Mallari of the Philippines at the Women Deliver conference.

They’re guys who stand up for women’s rights. Left to right: Patrick Segawa and Steven Twinomugisha of Uganda, Mark Gachagua of Kenya and Bryan Eric Mallari of the Philippines at the Women Deliver conference. Allison Shelley for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Allison Shelley for NPR

I wasn’t expecting to go to the world’s largest conference on women’s rights and interview a bunch of men.

But at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen last week, I met a few 20-something guys in the crowd of 5,000 people doing something that is typically a woman’s job: fighting for better reproductive health and family planning.

In covering global health I’ve found that anything to do with bearing children usually falls on the shoulders of women. Women are expected to track their periods, choose the right kind of birth control, space their pregnancies and, in some circumstances, figure out where to get an abortion — even if it’s illegal in their country.

Here’s a statistic I found when reporting in India that drove that point home: in the state of Chattisgarh, more than 124,000 women had been sterilized in 2014, about 19 times more than the number of men who had undergone vasectomies.

So what makes a man decide to do something that is definitely not the norm?

Mark Gachagua, a 25-year-old from Kenya, said it all started when he first grew a beard. He realized how little he knew about human bodies and how they work and change. And so he got interested in puberty and sexuality, and he cofounded a group called Young People Advocating for Health.

Now the coordinator of WAYAN, a youth advocacy organization, the softspoken 25-year-old educates Kenyans about reproductive health as well as social issues that threaten women. When he heard of a 17-year-old girl whose family was pushing her into marriage, he threatened to call the authorities since child marriage in Kenya is illegal. The family backed down, and the teenager was able to take final exams and continue her education.

Yemurai Nyoni, a 26-year-old youth advocate from Zimbabwe, became interested in women’s issues because of his friend Tecla. Married off as a child, she was sexually abused by her spouse and contracted HIV from him as well. Tecla’s story made Nyoni think of the freedoms he has a man — freedoms that women don’t always have.

“I’d liken it to slavery,” he said of what some women go through when it comes to sex and marriage. To get his message across, he founded Dot Youth Organization.

Bryan Mallari, a 22-year-old from the Philippines, was invited to become a peer educator seven years ago from a friend at church. He was struck by the fact that his country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Asia — one in 10 women between 15 and 19 is already a mother — yet the Catholic church, with its conservative views on sex and contraception, sometimes condemns the use of condoms. So he wanted to learn more.

His friends have a hard time even talking about sex — kids and teens use euphemisms like “flowers” and “birds” for their genitalia. Mallari, who has his teaching license, believes in using the correct anatomical language to get people talking about sexuality and reproductive health in an open, honest way. Even if it can sound crass to the untrained ear.

These unusual activists are big believers in bringing guys into the conversation, or at least into the room.

“We don’t separate boys and girls when we give classes,” said Steven Twinomugisha, a 27-year-old in Uganda who works with nonprofits to change attitudes about gender and family planning, using workshops and videos. “[A boy] has a sister at home or a girlfriend. If you put him on the sidelines, the ignorance continues.”

A lot of their work involves busting myths about sex or the body. Twinomugisha and his friend, Patrick Segawa, laughed about one girl’s comments at a Copenhagen session. She claimed that black-colored condoms create too much heat during sex.

“I know scientifically and practically, they don’t produce more heat,” said Segawa.

The men are encouraged by new national policies pushed through by advocacy efforts. The Philippines enacted its first reproductive health law in 2014, calling for more access to contraception and education, and Zimbabwe is attempting to create a more effective sexual health curriculum in their schools — partly a response to the 1.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS in that country.

The male activists all face roadblocks. Other men might think it’s strange for guys to talk about sexual health in public. They balk when the educators suggest buying sanitary pads for their girlfriends. And women sometimes resent the idea of men coming to talk to them about their bodies or how to fight child marriage or bride price, a practice in Zimbabwe of giving a girl’s family money, technically in exchange for the children she will bear.

“People say, ‘Why are you trying to mess around with marriage — that’s sacred,'” said Nyoni.

It's flash mob time at the Women Deliver conference: With the help of female delegates, Patrick Segawa of Uganda, center, and Steven Twinomugisha, left, stage a skit about a guy who couldn't find condoms.

It’s flash mob time at the Women Deliver conference: With the help of female delegates, Patrick Segawa of Uganda, center, and Steven Twinomugisha, left, stage a skit about a guy who couldn’t find condoms. Allison Shelley for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Allison Shelley for NPR

Twinomugisha said he navigates those moments with humor and creativity. At the conference, he and Segawa created a skit about a guy who can’t find condoms late at night. They choreographed a dance routine, complete with plenty of hip thrusts. And they performed it with a flash mob.

The advocates have learned to recognize their boundaries. For Mallari this can mean knowing when to refer a girl or woman to a health provider instead of trying to give her advice, usually when it comes to deciding on a type of contraception or taking a test to find out if she’s pregnant.

For Nyoni, it means knowing when he shouldn’t do anything at all, deferring to the women around him. That understanding, he said, has informed not just his work but the way he lives his life.

“There are times when I’ve had to become silent,” he said. “You have to know when there’s someone better than you to speak.”

Ankita Rao is a producer for WNYC’s health podcast, Only Human.

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First Watch: The Wild Reeds, 'Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight)'

May 26, 20162:22 PM ET

On a single great night in 2015, I saw Loretta Lynn, Steve Earle and Valerie June play live in Nashville, and I also saw another band that has stuck with me as much as those great favorites. The Wild Reeds is a band with three talented singers and songwriters — Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe and Sharon Silva — who have a great understanding of dynamics and heart. This song, “Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight),” from their new EP Best Wishes, is one that sticks with me. Sharon Silva told me that this song and those on their new EP are a deviation from their 2014 album Blind and Brave and a departure from “the expectations of women in the entertainment industry, and who we were as young people when we made Blind and Brave. Ultimately it’s our way of saying, ‘We’ve grown up a little and we are more concerned with originality than what’s expected of us.'”

The video was made by their dear friend Han Su. It’s a documentary of sorts and captures the L.A.-based band members’ friendship and the process of creation in their hometown. “Heartbreak can be like a broken record that repeats the good songs and skips the bad ones,” Sharon Silva said. “This song is about the tricks that nostalgia plays on the mind. The irony is that it’s one of our more triumphant and cathartic songs to perform.

The EP Best Wishes is a glimpse into what The Wild Reeds are up to in 2016. I suggest you look at their tour schedule and see this talented band in an intimate setting. You can also find their Tiny Desk concert here.

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Democrats Burned By Charges Of A Rigged Nomination, But Some In GOP Watch With Envy

A voter casts a ballot at a polling site on May 24 in Atlanta.

A voter casts a ballot at a polling site on May 24 in Atlanta. David Goldman/AP hide caption

toggle caption David Goldman/AP

One way we know we are (finally) nearing the end of this presidential nominating season is that both major parties have begun talking about big changes to the way they choose their nominees.

Both parties have been stunned by outsider candidates in this cycle. But the shock seems to be moving them in opposite directions. That may be because one party’s outsider has actually won the nomination while the other’s is falling short.

Some in the GOP are distressed at Donald Trump’s taking over, and they want to restore more party control. The changes they contemplate might alter the sequence of voting events or limit independents’ participation in the primaries.

The feelings are quite the reverse these days among Democrats. Although Hillary Clinton, the establishment favorite, seems assured of the nomination, she and other party leaders have been stung by runner-up Bernie Sanders’s frequent and vociferous accusations of a “rigged system.”

Sanders has spoken of the party’s voting and delegate rules in the same terms he uses for the campaign finance system, implying the party is not only favoring Clinton but also corrupt — both at the national level and in many states.

Even some of Clinton’s foremost fans and the staunchest of party regulars are ready to talk about a fresh infusion of populism for the next round. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the epitome of a lifetime party insider, allowed this week that “unease in the party” meant it was time to “revisit the delegate selection rules.”

So by the time the Democratic convention ends July 28, many of the party’s current rules may have changed. There may well be fewer superdelegates and more open primaries allowing any registered voter to take part. There may also be an effort to narrow the differences between the treatment of states holding primaries and those holding caucuses.

Some of these changes would seem likely to favor a future insurgent in the Sanders mold. For example, Sanders benefited when independents were able to vote in the Democratic primaries this spring, most notably in New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Independents are expected to boost him as well in California on June 7.

The Superdelegates

Sanders also has been critical of his party’s use of superdelegates, elected officeholders and party officials who are automatically delegates and can vote any way they like. Sanders has said they should at least be required to follow the results of voting in their home states. Such a stricture would have shrunk, but not eliminated, the enormous edge Clinton has had among superdelegates.

But it also would negate the purpose for which superdelegates were created. In the 1970s, total reliance on primaries and caucuses produced George McGovern and Jimmy Carter as nominees, and in 1972 and 1980 they lost in historic landslides. That led many in the party to long for at least a whiff of the old smoke-filled room.

Their solution was superdelegates, a means to leaven the judgment of the voters with an eye toward winning in November. Since then, the number of superdelegates has gone up and down. It now stands at more than 700, or roughly 15 percent of the total.

The next move will be down. But will it be all the way to zero? Probably not. A more likely compromise would be to allow only statewide elected officials and members of Congress to keep their superdelegate status. That would cut this privileged caste roughly in half.

The Caucuses

The wider welcome for independents and the narrower portal for superdelegates would please the Sanders forces because they would bring new participants into the process and reduce the role of the party establishment. But then what about the caucuses, which are great for committed activists but daunting for ordinary voters?

From Iowa to Idaho to Alaska, the caucus states were good to Sanders. Most of the states he actually won were caucus states. Yet to caucus requires hours of commitment, not than just a visit to a polling place or a mailbox. As a result, a caucus typically attracts far fewer participants than a primary, and its results are often farther away from the popular sentiment among all Democrats or independents in the state.

One example is the state of Washington, which this spring held both a non-binding primary and a series of caucuses at the local and county levels. About three times more people took part in the May primary (which Clinton won with about 53 percent) than in the March precinct caucuses. Yet all the delegates were awarded on the basis of the March caucuses, giving Sanders 74 to Clinton’s 27.

It seems safe to say Sanders would not have been happy with that arrangement had the totals been reversed. Honoring the preference of the larger group of voters would have been more consistent with his general call for greater openness.

This is not to say that caucuses are illegitimate. They have a rationale and a point of origin, just like other parts of the process. The caucus method has been employed primarily in states with smaller populations. Because caucus states are allowed to grant disproportionately large shares of their delegates to the winner, these states can attract more attention from the candidates than they otherwise might.

As a candidate in 2008, President Obama leaned heavily on the delegates he won by piling up big margins in small states out West. These payouts helped offset his losses in most of the 10 most populous states. Sanders’ forces have adopted that strategy as their own this year. It has worked for them, but not to the degree it worked for Obama.

The Parties

At this stage of the game, many voters, especially first-time voters, wonder why it all has to be so prolonged and complicated. Why do all the states have to have their own events? Why not regional primaries? Or a national primary in each party that chooses the champions for November? Or a national primary without the parties?

After all, the Constitution never mentions or contemplates parties. They grew up in the early years of the Republic, in Washington and in state capitals and county courthouses, as private associations organizing political activity to win office and wield power.

In our time, fewer and fewer people identify with either of the major parties. Yet a Republican or a Democrat has still won every presidential election since the Civil War, and the two parties hold all but two of the 535 seats in Congress. In the states, it’s pretty much the same story.

Ideas about national primaries or party-free primaries have long been proposed and debated and set aside. They are impractical in part because the states that profit from the current system (especially Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina) care more than the other states and resist changes fiercely and, so far at least, effectively.

Beyond that, the roots of the current system go deep in history and tradition. They are intertwined with the fundamental idea of federalism — which is that the individual states are parts of a whole yet still matter as separate entities with separate identities and separate decisions to make as they see fit.

That is the concept behind the Electoral College, and the parties have long organized their nominating systems around that same concept. The states have jealously guarded the privilege of having their say in the nominations, as well as their right to determine their say in their way.

Today, that is done through primaries and caucuses. But until fairly recently, delegates were chosen and allocated by party leaders, elected officials, funders and fundraisers and activists. They were often controlled by a single leader, such as a governor or senator or state party chairman who could “deliver” them all as a package when the moment came on the convention floor.

But if we have come a long way from those days, there will be those this year who say we have not come far enough. If democracy is good, direct democracy must be better. Arbiters and brokers only dilute the will of the people.

No doubt this idea appeals to many Sanders enthusiasts and not a few of Trump’s as well. For these voters, the parties are beside the point and have outlived their usefulness — at least as the winnowers of the presidential field.

But there will also be those, in both parties, who feel they have seen quite enough of the will of the people in this particular election cycle. Some, in Cleveland especially, may be nostalgic for some of the savvy and stability that was lost when we closed the door on the smoke-filled room.

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Evaporated Cane Juice? Puh-leeze. Just Call It Sugar, FDA Says

Is it sugar, or “evaporated cane juice”? The FDA says they’re the same thing, folks. Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration seems intent on bringing sugar out of the shadows.

Not only will food companies have to reveal, right on the package, how much sugar they’ve added to food; they also will have to call it by its real name.

The FDA is taking aim at one of sugar’s cover identities: evaporated cane juice. This ingredient made its appearance about 25 years ago and has been especially popular among companies that have cultivated a healthful image, including Amy’s Kitchen, Kind and Chobani.

Just like sugar, this ingredient is created by crushing sugar cane to extract the juice, then purifying that juice, getting rid of the water and turning it into fine crystals. However, it still contains a bit of molasses, which is completely removed from the cane sugar you find in the store.

Food companies that use this ingredient maintain that it’s different from sugar and that “evaporated cane juice” is its proper name. Others disagree.

“Evaporated cane juice is the food industry’s latest attempt to convince you that crystallizing sugar by this particular method will make you think it is natural and healthy,” wrote Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics, in her blog in 2014.

The FDA didn’t make up its mind on the matter until this week. Back in 2009, the agency released a proposed “guidance” document that advised companies not to use the term “evaporated cane juice.” The FDA proposed instead that companies call it “dried cane syrup.”

Now, after years of listening to critical comments on that proposal, the FDA has changed its mind. Its new and final “Guidance for Industry,” just released, instructs food companies to call this ingredient “sugar.” Companies can add modifying adjectives, perhaps calling it “organic cane sugar,” but the word “sugar” should be included.

Such “guidance” from the FDA is not legally binding but can be powerful nonetheless. Several companies, most prominently Chobani, have been sued by consumers who consider the use of “evaporated cane juice” misleading. Some of the judges presiding over these cases have been waiting for the FDA to weigh in.

Florida Crystals Corp., a producer and defender of the product, said in a statement it is reviewing the FDA’s guidance but is “not yet in a position to fully comment on it.”

Nestle, in an email to The Salt, wrote: “At last. A sensible decision. Sugar is sugar, no matter what it is called. Now the FDA needs to do this with all the other euphemisms.”

Other ingredients that are nearly equivalent to sugar include rice syrup, sorghum syrup, malt and corn sweetener.

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The Spending Race Between Japan And China On Global Infrastructure

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron (not seen) during a bilateral meeting on May 24, 2016 in Shima, Japan. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron (not seen) during a bilateral meeting on May 24, 2016 in Shima, Japan. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Leaders from the world’s wealthiest countries kicked off their G-7 meeting Thursday in Japan with a call from that country for more infrastructure spending in poorer countries around the world.

Japan is touting its new plan to spend $200 billion over the next five years, on “high quality” infrastructure around the world. China, which is not at the G-7 meeting, has been investing heavily across Asia and Africa.

Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti speaks with business journalist Ali Velshi about the infrastructure race between Japan and China.


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