Ikea Wants To Pay Someone To Go To Denmark And Research Happiness

The key to happiness? No one knows for certain, but Ikea is willing to pay someone to try and find out exactly what it is. The furniture company is currently on the hunt for someone who can travel to Denmark and research happiness. Last year, Denmark was ranked among the top three happiest countries to live in, according to the World Happiness Report, which takes into account data on crime, income, civic engagement and health.

But Ikea is likely more interested in what makes people happy in the home, and Denmark seems to know a great deal about that, too. One psychologist and native of Denmark,  Marie Helweg-Larsen, declared in an article for Live Science that a large part of what makes the citizens of Denmark so happy is the idea of “hygge.” This is often translated as “cozy” but, according to Helweg-Larsen, a better translation is “intentional intimacy” which, according to her, occurs when “you have safe, balanced and harmonious shared experiences. A cup of coffee with a friend in front of a fireplace might qualify, as could a summer picnic in the park.”

Does an “intentionally intimate” lifestyle sound like it could bring you — and everyone else — happiness? There’s only one way to find out!


How To Enter

If you’re interested in traveling to Denmark to possibly find the key to happiness, once and for all, you’ve got until July 1 to enter to win. All you have to do is visit the Ikea website, fill out a form giving Ikea a little information about yourself and upload a 60-second video about why you’re the person for the job. It’s as simple as that!

According to the application, the right fit for the role is someone who’s curious, who loves to travel and meet new people and who doesn’t mind being in front of the camera. Oh, and having a deep desire to understand what leads to happiness wouldn’t hurt either! You must be 18 years or older to apply.


The Grand Prize

Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll be eligible to win the ultimate trip to Denmark, on Ikea’s dime. You’ll spend two weeks in Copenhagen in September, doing everything from making home visits, taking guided tours and attending talks and dinners to getting to know the Danish lifestyle. You’ll also have your own time to explore and find some happiness of your own. And as if paid travel expenses and a place to stay weren’t enough, Ikea will also give you a small salary for your efforts.

One applicant will be chosen and announced by mid-July.

Are you ready to help Ikea and all of its customers live a happier life? It’s no small task, but somebody’s got to do it. Might as well be you!

Jane Austen’s tips for “health and happiness”

While most of us have focused on the heart of Jane Austen’s novels or its portrayal of the society of the period, Austen herself was equally fascinated by something rather more functional: health. For some time now, I’ve been following the Jane Austen diet. Yes, you did read that correctly. To quote the character Mr Collins in the author’s Pride and Prejudice, “do not make yourself uneasy”. Because not only is the diet real, it’s been hiding right under our literary noses for more than two centuries.

It is incorporated into nearly everything Austen wrote, as this quote from Emma (1816) shows: “Where health is at stake, nothing else should be considered.” Themes of health are woven into her earliest stories; they continue strongly throughout Emma and Persuasion (1817); and are centre-stage in her last, unfinished novel Sanditon (set in a seaside health resort). Ironically, as Austen’s own health was fading [she died at the age of 41 after becoming ill with what is today thought to have been Addison’s disease], she wrote about cherishing true health even more.

In fact, look closer at her fiction and you’ll find that “improvement of health” has always been a part of Austen’s happily-ever-after package, freely bestowed on her most worthy characters, from Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility (1811) to Anne Elliot in Persuasion, who begins her own story a bit “faded” in the physical department. Yet to gradually regain one’s natural “bloom” is the birthright of Austen’s great and good. Even the word “health” itself pops up more than a hundred times in her six classic novels.

What Austen had to say about health and what science says today are astonishingly similar

Yet if Austen’s passion for doling out “secure and permanent health” is news to you, join the club; I only recently discovered it myself. Though interested in Jane Austen since adolescence it wasn’t until I neared my 30th birthday that I noticed something remarkable. What Austen had to say about health more than 200 years ago, and what science says today, is astonishingly similar.

The way her healthiest characters eat, exercise and think about their bodies can be seen to have unique patterns and modern parallels to heed. The discovery led me on a personal research project that has forever transformed my image of Austen – from ‘dowdy Hampshire spinster’ to timeless health guru with a sparkling wit. So, for lack of a better description, I’ve been on the Jane Austen ‘diet’ for more than two years now, incorporating wellness strategies found her in her writing into everyday life, finding new and fascinating ways to approach old body problems. Here are just a few of the many health lessons that Jane Austen advocated in her writing…

Jane Austen
The way Jane Austen’s healthiest characters eat, exercise and think about their bodies can offer healthy tips for modern life, says Bryan Kozlowski. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)



Look at the whole “picture of health”

Whatever might be said for Austen’s perhaps narrow formula for matrimonial bliss (handsome gent + large fortune = success), when it comes to health she was by no means a reductionist. Compared to today’s clinical definitions of health – often defined by numbers on a bathroom scale or on a BMI chart – Austen viewed health in far broader terms.

Influenced by classical medicine and the ‘non-naturals’ theory, which based good health more on environmental factors and less on fretting over one’s body size, health for Austen seemed to hold a refreshingly literal meaning. The word ‘health’ etymologically means ‘whole’, from the Old English hale; something that should bring a rejuvenating wholeness to one’s body, mood and mind. It’s no coincidence, therefore, that Austen’s healthiest characters don’t look inward in their pursuit of health – worrying about their corset size or reflection in a ballroom mirror – but take many other factors into consideration: their energy levels; their relationship with food and exercise; their physical comfort and mental happiness; even the glow of their skin. Austen calls it the bigger “picture of health” in Emma, something that can flourish, regardless of body size.

Indeed, rather than promoting a one-size-fits-all standard of physical beauty, there’s a wide and progressive range of healthy, energetic body sizes in Austen’s novels – from “plump” Harriet Smith in Emma to the “squareness” of Mrs Croft in Persuasion, to the “stout”, curvy appeal of Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. And don’t forget pretty Jane Fairfax in Emma, described in delightfully ambiguous terms as “a most becoming medium, between fat and thin”. In short, attractive bodies can come in “every possible variation of form”, says Elinor in Sense and Sensibility, a refreshing statement that brilliantly anticipates our current understanding of diverse body shapes.

(Photo by Getty Images / Liaison Agency)
Getting outside and soaking up the sunshine and fresh air isn’t just encouraged in Austen’s novels, it’s practically prescribed as a wonder drug. Pictured, the cast of a 1996 adaptation of ‘Sense and Sensibility’. (Photo by Getty Images / Liaison Agency)

Such examples show Austen’s thoughtful rebuttal to the contemporary vogue of reducing health to a number on a scale or dress size during the late 18th century. At the time, the new-fangled fad of weighing oneself (on a large hanging scale) was fuelling a dangerous cultural obsession with weight that, paradoxically, sapped the health out of many of Austen’s contemporaries. This was the age of a growing trend towards sickly-thin physiques that sought to mirror the wastage of tuberculosis, a disease which had ravaged Europe during the period. Marianne Dashwood even gets sucked into the craze in Sense and Sensibility. “Confess, Marianne”, says her cooler headed sister Elinor. “Is not there something interesting to you in the flushed cheek, hollow eye, and quick pulse of a fever?”

Though perhaps no one fell harder for the “tubercular look” than the famous Regency poet, Lord Byron. Never one to do anything by half measures, Byron was one of history’s first neurotic weight watchers, compulsively weighing himself on hanging scales and putting himself on endless rounds of starvation diets when the number wasn’t to his liking.

Yet Austen repeatedly seems to refute the cultural fad that thinness alone has any real connection to “health and happiness”. Just ask any of the comical characters in Austen’s novels who spend too much time myopically focused on their bodies while forgetting the bigger picture of total wellness (Mr Woodhouse, Mary Musgrove, Lady Bertram, to name a few).


Don’t be a foodie

Despite the ostensibly sparse references to food in her novels, Austen seemingly understood the modern ‘foodie’ culture better than most of us do today. Much like our own, the Georgian era was an age of epicurean excess. Thanks to improved farming techniques, food was more abundant in Austen’s England than ever before and the rising leisure class had more time to eat it. The combination posed inevitable health risks, plunging the upper classes into a mini obesity epidemic. As the 18th-century physician Thomas Short observed: “I believe no age did ever afford more instances of corpulency than our own.”

Austen reflected this concern in her fiction, creating food-obsessed characters like Mr Hurst in Pride and Prejudice “who lived only to eat”. But while her contemporaries were advocating stringent diets to remedy the problem, Austen had other, more practical secrets up her sleeve. Her novels reference mental strategies for how to eat, satisfyingly and sanely, in any age of excess.

One of her ‘tips’ involves adopting what she would call “a proper air of indifference” to food: the importance of keeping one’s relationship with food at an emotional arm’s length. Her fictional heroines are famous for it, refusing to talk, think, or emote about food more than is absolutely necessary. In Pride and Prejudice, for example, Lizzie’s brief friendship with Mr Hurst comes to an awkward halt when she refuses to indulge him in a conversation on the giddy delights of French “ragout”, a highly-flavoured stew that he can’t seem to get enough of.

Painting titled 'Still life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle by Luis Egidio Meléndez (1716-1780) Spanish painter. Dated 1771. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
An 18th-century still life by Spanish painter Luis Egidio Meléndez. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

While Austen was not puritanical about food – far from it, she fully enjoyed its gustatory pleasures, as her personal letters attest. But she also knew the dietary pitfalls of developing a deeper, irrational romance with food. Just ask Dr Grant of Mansfield Park (1816), whose habit of emotional eating and its subsequent binges lead him to an early grave (one of the few rare characters to die in the course of her novels). Modern research confirms Austen’s intuitive wisdom. Much research now suggests that thinking about food when you’re not hungry can still trigger your pancreas to secrete insulin, which pumps powerful hunger signals to your brain. Austen’s writing displayed an insistence to never get too touchy-feely with food. Marianne and Elinor even refuse to dwell too long over a dinner menu at an inn in Sense and Sensibility.

But while Austen fully encouraged this mental diet of sorts, she never encouraged actual dietary deprivation. Quite the contrary. Austen seemed to grasp what science only started understanding in the 1950s, that the only way to stop obsessing about food is to start eating. It may seem paradoxical, but no one can trick their hunger hormones for too long and Austen certainly makes sure her heroines eat, in ways that are fully and naturally satisfying. Though she might be mentally stoic about food, Catherine Morland is proud of possessing “a good appetite” in Northanger Abbey. She simply eats when she’s hungry, even late at night after a ball. Emma Woodhouse, in turn, respects the food calls of nature, duly promising “that she would take something to eat, if hungry”.

Yet Austen’s simple reminders to eat well, regularly and without guilt, still feel as revolutionary today as they did in the early 1800s. Indeed, period fashions promoted exactly the opposite. “A woman should never be seen eating or drinking,” snickered Lord Byron, reflecting the sexist sentiment of the day, one that considered the natural act of eating as somehow an unwomanly enterprise. It was one of the first cultural fads Austen lambasted as a teenager with biting wit in her story, Love and Friendship, particularly in one frank acknowledgement: “It was first necessary to eat.” It was a fad she continued to rebut throughout her literary life.


Exercise like Elizabeth

Austen was a passionate and progressive advocate of exercise, especially for women. The 18th-century cult of sensibility had done its best to enfeeble the era’s definition of femininity, to spread “an idea of weakness”, as contemporary observers like Edmund Burke wrote. “Women are very sensible of this,” he wrote, “for which reason they learn to lisp, to totter in their walk, to counterfeit weakness”. Austen fought back: “Do not consider me now as an elegant female,” insists Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

An engraving of figures walking in London's Temple Gardens, c1750. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
An engraving of figures walking in London’s Temple Gardens, c1750. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Though she was never the Regency equivalent of a modern gym rat, Austen embraced something far more thoughtful; a philosophy we might today call intuitive exercise. A world away from the leaden weights and agonised grunts of modern gyms, intuitive exercise is the belief that the most effective workouts involve easy, natural movements, that pushing our bodies too far beyond their physical comfort zones is not a sustainable strategy for lifelong fitness. There’s the sound logic of Austen’s observation in Mansfield Park: “Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like.”

It’s also interesting to note that only enjoyable, pleasure-producing words like “comfortable”, “delightful” and even “snug” define the daily workouts in Austen’s novels, with very little sweat or physical stress involved. Motion, frequent and routine, is all Austen advises, whether that’s a stroll to the nearest village, a potter about the garden, a country dance, or simply another “turn” around the room. Where we have guilt, ‘no-pain-no-gain’ attitudes, and the pressure to ‘power through’ the latest modern workout, Austen’s characters feel fit and fully satisfied by simply enjoying “the felicities of rapid motion” (then taking a comfortable breather whenever necessary).

Science seems to have caught up with Austen, rediscovering the truth behind the Regency medical idea that the human body is a sort of machina carnis, a ‘body machine’ that relies on more regular (not necessarily more vigorous) movement to keep its metabolic gears running smoothly. And walking, of course, has always been the easiest way to do just that.

Walking is certainly the exercise of choice in Austen’s world, where characters walk miles, every day, to the nearest house or village and enjoy consistently high levels of energy and physical fitness as a result. Radiating “life and vigour” in Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennet eagerly jumps at the opportunity of taking a three-mile stroll to Netherfield to visit her sister. Period diaries confirm just how typical these daily strolls were; people of Austen’s class could often walk up to seven miles a day, just by visiting nearby friends and relations.


Develop “a taste for nature”

One of the most unexpected aspects of Austen’s health code has become, for me, one of her most surprisingly effective – her insistence that a naturally healthy diet requires a daily dose of nature itself. Getting outside and soaking up the sunshine and fresh air isn’t just encouraged in her novels, it’s practically prescribed as a wonder drug. The character Jane Fairfax, for example, is catapulted into the plot of Emma only after being advised to dose up on fresh country air for her health. Other characters who stay cooped up indoors, by contrast, ultimately suffer mysterious slumps to their overall wellbeing.

Though a solid component of historic medical theories since Hippocrates have studied nature’s impact on human health, many readers today still find Austen’s nature prescriptions something of a romantic mystery. But modern research is starting to appreciate that nature is indeed an essential nutrient too, just as Austen firmly believed. “I advise you to go out: the air will do you good,” says Sir Thomas with conviction in Mansfield Park.

Austen’s repeated calls to reconnect with nature – at the seaside at Lyme, on the rolling downs of Devonshire, or the gardens of Pemberley – is being scientifically supported in fascinating new ways. The recent interest in Japanese ‘forest bathing’, the importance of sunlight in regulating our happiness and hormone levels, and the modern dangers of ‘sick building syndrome’ (the myriad health risks of spending too much time indoors) – all find historic parallels and portents in Austen’s novels. After all, Austen fully grasped the original, wider scope of the word ‘diet’. Extending far beyond just food, diet derives from the Greek diaita, meaning ‘way of life’, a life made manifestly better by developing an Austen-style “taste for nature”.

Bryan Kozlowski is the author of The Jane Austen Diet: Austen’s Secrets to Food, Health, and Incandescent Happiness (Turner, March 2019). A passionate champion of “lit wit” – bringing the wisdom of classic literature in everyday life – his works have appeared in Vogue, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Thoughts on the AirPods 2

If you follow me on Twitter, you are probably aware I have been waiting for a long time for Apple to release the new versions of its AirPods. The company finally launched those this month, and I was quick to pre-order one. Apple shipped my new AirPods 2 just yesterday, and I have been using it for the last day. Here are some of my thoughts.

I haven’t used the original AirPods at all, but I have been using wireless headphones for a while. Coming to AirPods 2, the wireless experience wasn’t really all that new for me. What was new, however, was the convenience of the AirPods.

Connecting to the AirPods is incredibly quick and easy, especially since I have an iPhone and a Mac. And with the new H1 chip on the AirPods 2, the connectivity seems way faster too. I have compared the connectivity performance of my AirPods 2 with a friend’s original AirPods, and mine was slightly quicker to connect. And that’s not a big deal, but the new H1 makes it so switching between different devices is quicker, and that’s where the notable difference is. That obviously doesn’t really work when you are connecting to a non-Apple device, so when I am switching between my Windows 10 machine and my iPhone, the experience is a bit iffy for sure.

AirPods 2 also brings Hey Siri, and that’s one of the more exciting features in this year’s update. Hey Siri lets you activate Siri with your voice without having to double tap on your AirPods, and it works really well. Siri is quick to detect the hotword and start answering your questions on the AirPods 2, but it is a little confusing at first. There isn’t really any real indication of when Siri is actually listening to you, but that’s a learning curve that you can get over pretty easily.

What is weird, however, is actually talking to Siri in public. When I am listening to music and I can’t really hear my own voice, I was worried I would say “Hey Siri” out loud in public and everyone would look at me like a weirdo. And to be honest, I just tried to get Siri to activate with a quiet voice at first and getting louder slowly to finally get Siri to listen to me. Again, it’s a learning curve that you get used to quickly.

In terms of performance, Siri on the AirPods 2 work just fine, and it’s very quick to respond as well. And the fact that you don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket is very convinient, especially if you are in a really packed train, for example.

Wireless Charging is a big part of the AirPods 2, by the way. Apple is actually selling two different variants of the AirPods 2 — one with a regular charging case for $159, and another with a wireless charging case for $199. I went for the wireless charging case one because I may get an AirPower in the future (if that actually makes it out of Apple HQs), but I don’t actually have a wireless charger right now. But here is the thing: one of my friends had a Galaxy S10, and because that phone has the new Wireless PowerShare feature, I was able to charge my AirPods simply by placing it on the S10. And it was…pretty cool. This is Samsung innovating here, just to be clear. Apple will obviously copy PowerShare on the future iPhones, so I am glad I got the $199 AirPods 2 instead of the regular one.

Sound quality wise, the AirPods 2 sounds just fine. It sounds identical to the original AirPods and the sound quality isn’t anything out of this world. It’s not really “great” for $199 headphones, but it does the job. I mean, if you aren’t an audio nerd like me, these things will sound just fine.

I also haven’t had a long enough time with the new AirPods to comment on the battery life, which Apple says has improved with this year’s update. But the fact that I have listened to music nonstop for hours without running out of battery is probably a good indication of the battery life.

And as a new AirPods user, I love some of the classic AirPods features like all the gesture-based controls. Tapping on the AirPods to play/pause playback or play the next track is really cool, and being able to automatically pause playback when you take off one of the AirPods is actually very handy.

But because my previous wireless headphones actually had a wire, the new AirPods felt a bit weird when taking off. I always found myself trying to take it off by pulling the wire, but that obviously doesn’t exist here. I also found the AirPods a little clumsy when taking them out the AirPods case and putting them back in, though these are probably things I will get used to as I use these more.

Either way, I actually really like the new AirPods. I have wanted to get one for a really long time, so I am pretty happy with these. There are some things I would like Apple to improve with a future version though, which obviously includes the sound quality, and improved design (especially for the charging case which I think is a little big).

Trump’s swap of ‘irreplaceable’ wilderness allows millions of dollars in seafood transport

This story was originally published by Reveal and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Cold Bay, Alaska — At the spot where a rugged chain of islands breaks away from the Alaska Peninsula, a secluded national refuge protects millions of seabirds, grizzly bears, and caribou.

Framed by snow-capped mountains and smoky volcanoes, the refuge holds an irreplaceable underwater grass forest, where the world’s population of a tuxedo-colored sea goose — 150,000 of them — fattens up before a nonstop 60-hour migration to Mexico.

For six decades, the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, tucked along the coast of the Bering Sea, has been protected as one of the wildest nature spots on Earth, remote enough to escape development.

But that isolation has been shattered. Seven noisy helicopters swooped down 80 times over two days in July to land on the narrow isthmus where animals nest, feed, and migrate.

Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, prodded by President Donald Trump, ordered the surprise helicopter survey to prepare to bulldoze a 12-mile road through the refuge’s federally protected wilderness.

Almost a year ago, on a day that the federal government was briefly shut down, Zinke quietly signed a land swap, evading Congress, which has wrestled with the issue for decades. The Interior Department is trading the swath of Izembek’s wilderness to Aleut Natives so their cannery town of King Cove can build the final 12 miles of a 37-mile gravel road to the Cold Bay Airport. In exchange, the federal government gets an equal amount of Aleut land.

In crafting the deal, Zinke rejected the warnings of his department’s scientists. After a four-year study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the refuge, concluded that allowing a road through the refuge would “lead to significant degradation of irreplaceable ecological resources.” It also would jeopardize the global survival of a migratory sea goose, called the Pacific black brant, as well as the emperor goose and other waterfowl, the agency said.

Trump and Zinke have worked behind the scenes to deliver the road to the rural Aleut government of King Cove, which has spent almost 50 years lobbying Congress and the Interior Department. The Aleut say the road is essential to transport patients with medical emergencies to the Cold Bay Airport, where they could then fly to an Anchorage hospital.

Zinke, who left office last week amid multiple ethics investigations, billed his action as allowing a “lifesaving road” for the roughly 1,000 residents of King Cove.

But a close examination of the agreement and the history of the road deal suggests that it is more about selling seafood than saving lives.

The black-and-white line shows the proposed route for the road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. It would run through habitat for brown bears, caribou, and dozens of bird species.

A document dating back two decades shows that hauling fish, not patients, was the Aleuts’ original motive for building a road through the national refuge. When that strategy failed, they and Alaska Republican leaders switched to focus on medical necessity.

Now the new land swap deal includes a little-known provision forged by the Interior Department that would allow King Cove fishermen to transport tens of millions of dollars of salmon, crab, cod, and other seafood on their way to lucrative Asian markets.

The economy of King Cove is almost totally dependent on commercial fishing. It’s home to the Peter Pan Seafoods cannery, owned by the world’s largest fish processor, Maruha Nichiro Corp. of Japan.

Under the agreement signed by Zinke, the road will be “generally for noncommercial purposes.” But the deal also contains this provision: “The commercial transport of fish and seafood products, except by an individual or a small business, on any portion of the Road shall be prohibited.”

The term “small business” can leave the wrong impression, though. A fishing business is defined as small when it has annual revenue no higher than $20.5 million for finfish, $5.5 million for shellfish or $7.5 million for other marine fish, according to federal codes.

The wording would prevent giant Peter Pan Seafoods, which reports about $225 million in annual sales, from driving fresh seafood to the airport to fly it to Asia and elsewhere. But King Cove’s commercial fishermen — including all of its Aleut leaders — would qualify under those income restrictions to use the road for transporting their fish and seafood, according to state data on seafood earnings. And Peter Pan could use it to transport its workers, up to 500 in peak salmon season.

Zinke and Aleut leaders never mentioned or explained the loophole when discussing the land swap in public.

King Cove’s economy is almost totally dependent on commercial fishing. It’s home to the Peter Pan Seafoods cannery, owned by the world’s largest fish processor, Maruha Nichiro Corp. of Japan. Ash Adams / Reveal

The provision “could easily be exploited” for business purposes, said Deborah Williams, a former Interior Department attorney. The agreement between Zinke and King Cove “could — but does not — restrict the use of the road to health and safety issues,” she said.

A road would disturb more than just its immediate path. It would bring traffic and noise and give King Cove subsistence hunters and visitors easy access to animals in dense, undisturbed parts of the wilderness. It also would bisect the land bridge for bear and caribou, which are sensitive to disturbance, according to wildlife biologists.

The deal will decimate the “most important wildlife refuge in all of Alaska,” said Bruce Babbitt, who rejected the road when he served as interior secretary during the Clinton administration. “Izembek is a convergent point where seabirds migrating out of the Arctic feed. If that link is broken, we’re at risk of extinction of all those bird species.”

Leaders in King Cove say road opponents are valuing birds and other wildlife more than residents’ medical needs. Lillian Sager is a member of the large Aleut commercial fishing family that has tried to get the road built for decades.

“When I’m stuck in King Cove and the wind is blowing 100 miles an hour and I’m sick, you want to get out of that town. All that is more important than if there is garbage on the road or if (hunters) are going to shoot animals,” said Sager, whose brother is King Cove Mayor Henry Mack.

However, a medical expert disputes that a road through the refuge is a safe way to transport patients. And a federal report has outlined other reliable alternatives.

Peter Mjos oversaw medical evacuations in King Cove for 15 years as the Eastern Aleutian Tribes’ medical director. “Should the road happen, I foresee all sorts of calamity,” he says. Ash Adams / Reveal

A doctor who oversaw medical evacuations in King Cove for 15 years said traveling almost 40 miles on the gravel road during 60 mph winds and blinding snowstorms would be “suicidal” for patients and rescue teams.

“Should the road happen, I foresee all sorts of calamity,” said Peter Mjos, who was the Eastern Aleutian Tribes’ medical director until 2002. He retired from practicing medicine in 2015.

The road is the centerpiece of a campaign by Trump and Alaska’s Republican congressional delegation to monetize the state’s public lands by approving private development, oil drilling, mining, and logging.

Also on Trump’s wish list are oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean, logging in the Tongass National Forest, and two mines, one in Bristol Bay and one in mountains west of Fairbanks.

Trump personally promised Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski that he’d get the road built. He scribbled a note to her on a copy of an October 16, 2017, Washington Post story about the land swap.

“Lisa — We will get it done,” Trump wrote in a note Murkowski shared at a press conference.

Eight months later, a month before the helicopter land survey, Trump asked her, “How’s our beautiful little road doing in Alaska?”

Messaging behind the road shifts

King Cove’s harbors are filled with fishing vessels, battered from weeks at sea. Like their ancestors for the past 9,000 years, the Aleut depend on the ocean for their food, livelihood, and transportation. The town is relatively well off — its median income of almost $73,000 is about 23 percent higher than the national median, though one out of every seven residents lives in poverty.

In these remote parts of Alaska, villages are isolated; roads connecting them are rare. Many of King Cove’s Aleut are prosperous commercial fishing families with cars and trucks but few roads on which to drive.

Currently, people who need more care than a medical clinic can provide are evacuated to the Cold Bay Airport by helicopter or small plane, then flown to Anchorage. Such air transport, however, is hampered by high winds. On average, one or two patients are evacuated from King Cove per month.

Mjos, the retired doctor in King Cove, called the road “a folly.” The area has the highest average wind speeds of anywhere in the United States, and in winter, the road could be buried under several feet of snow and ice. He said it would be safer to transport patients across the bay by ferry.

The federal Army Corps of Engineers, which reviewed marine options for transporting patients, determined in 2015 that the cheapest, most effective solution would be to provide a terminal and ferry in King Cove capable of withstanding waves and ice, along with an improved Cold Bay dock, at an estimated capital cost of $30 million.

More than 30 other rural communities in Alaska that do not have roads use ferries, according to the report. In comparison, building the road would cost the state the same, an estimated $30 million, with unknown annual maintenance costs.

Pacific black brant fly over the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and land on its eelgrass beds. The world’s population of the sea goose – 150,000 of them – fattens up here before a nonstop 60-hour migration to Mexico. Ash Adams / Reveal

In 1994, King Cove passed a resolution saying the road would “link together two communities having one of the State’s premier fishing ports/harbors (including North America’s largest salmon cannery) in King Cove with one of the State’s premier airports at Cold Bay.”

There was not a single mention of the road being needed to transport sick or injured people.

About 20 years ago, that messaging changed.

According to a review of their public stances, Alaska politicians and the Aleutians East Borough and city of King Cove dropped references to commercial fishing and Peter Pan Seafoods and switched their focus to health and safety in their efforts to secure the road.

Rarely in recent years have Alaska politicians deviated from their public health message. However, in a 2011 visit, Murkowski, the senator, called the road a “critical ingredient in (our) thriving economic future.” And in May, then-Governor Bill Walker reported to the Trump administration that it is for “enabling access to health services and movement of goods and people.”

Commercial uses “have always been the main reasons for the road,” said Deborah Williams, the former Interior Department attorney who is now a lecturer on public lands at the University of California, Santa Barbara. When she visited King Cove in the mid-1990s, “they told me, ‘We want that road to take fresh fish to Cold Bay to maximize the value of our fish.’”

President Barack Obama’s interior secretary, Sally Jewell, recalled that on a 2013 tour, she repeatedly asked King Cove leaders why they had extended the road right up to the wilderness, leading to nowhere.

“I was finally told, ‘Because we wanted to put pressure on you to build the road through the refuge.’ They actually said that,” she said.

Months later, she rejected the road, citing scientists’ concerns about the impacts on wildlife and concluding that “reasonable and viable transportation alternatives exist.”

The existing 17-mile part of the road leading out of King Cove, Alaska, ends right at the refuge’s wilderness boundary. Ash Adams / Reveal

Documents show that the local leaders pushing for the road own commercial fishing boats. The Mack family has 25 vessels, one of the largest fleets in King Cove. Five of the six members of the City Council own commercial vessels, and the sixth is in the Mack family.

Dean Gould, who is president of King Cove’s Aleut government and whose name is on the land agreement with Zinke, said he owns a 49-foot vessel; his large family owns seven other commercial fishing boats. Gould said he personally would not use the road to transport his salmon and other fish because he now delivers it to Peter Pan by tender, a vessel that services his boat while he’s at sea for weeks at a time.

So why was the small business provision put in the agreement? Gould said it’s because it “leaves a little bit of door open” if someone hauls “a couple cases … or a pound or two” or if anyone wants to commercially transport fish in the future.

Peter Pan Seafoods, which has been publicly silent on the road project, declined to comment. Henry Mack, the mayor, said the land swap is “still in the court, and I won’t be making a comment on anything to do with the road or commercial fishing.”

Little information has been released about the physical challenges, safety issues, and costs that the state and Aleuts would face building and maintaining the road.

“Today, the road costs, maintenance, reliability due to avalanches and storms, and travel time under these conditions are remaining questions that have yet to be given to the public,” said Tony Knowles, Alaska’s governor from 1994 to 2002.

David Bernhardt, who is now Trump’s acting interior secretary, worked with King Cove to arrange the land swap. Shortly after he was confirmed as the department’s second in command in July 2017, Bernhardt held a video meeting with a King Cove group, before the idea became public, according to his calendar record. Bernhardt previously was a lobbyist for the state of Alaska and the oil industry in efforts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development.

‘Extraordinary wildlife and wilderness’

Overhead on a September day at the Izembek refuge, clouds of Pacific black brant are flying in by the tens of thousands from the Yukon Delta, Canadian Arctic, and eastern Russia. They feed in North America’s largest eelgrass bed, the first to be designated as internationally critical to wildlife.

Nearly the entire emperor goose population and thousands of threatened Steller’s eiders also forage in the eelgrass at Izembek Lagoon. Tributaries run rife with salmon and host grizzly bears. Sea otters in the lagoon pop up with pups on their bellies. On the spits of land that form the estuary’s gate to the sea, hundreds of walruses and harbor seals grunt, roll, and rest.

The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge has North America’s largest eelgrass bed, the first to be designated as internationally critical to wildlife, including the black brant. Ash Adams / Reveal

The existing 17-mile stretch of road ends right at the refuge’s wilderness boundary. It’s from this spot that Zinke’s deal would push another 12 miles through the wilderness to the airport.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that “extraordinary wildlife and wilderness resources … recognized for their national and international significance” would be harmed and that the swapped land “would not compensate for the adverse effects.” The road poses major risks to the survival of brant, tundra swan, emperor goose, bear, caribou, and fish populations and moderate risks to many others, according to the agency’s data.

Brant travel almost 3,000 miles every spring and fall to feed on the refuge’s eelgrass. They are elegant-looking birds, mostly jet black with bands of bright white, somewhat like a tuxedo. Small for a goose, they must stay strong to survive their nonstop transcontinental journey.

Their survival rate already is dropping, largely due to degraded winter habitat in Mexico and California. And global warming is altering their behavior, which makes the refuge’s role in protecting them even more critical because they are spending more time there. About one-third of the 150,000 arriving at Izembek now stay for the winter, increasing every year by about 7 percent, according to research.

“Any threats to the Alaska wintering population have implications for the entire Pacific Flyway population,” the 2009 study says, adding that “this species is experiencing a long-term decline and is of conservation concern across its range.”

Christian Dau, a now-retired Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who was based at the refuge in the 1980s and ’90s and co-wrote the paper, said the road would shatter the remoteness that protects the birds.

“I go back to the farsighted founding fathers of the refuge. They always took the conservative approach,” he said. “When your options are narrow, you should act conservatively. You don’t open the floodgates and allow lots of development. In 20/20 hindsight, you might look back and say we made a mistake.”

Christian Dau, a former federal biologist at the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge who now lives in Wasilla, Alaska, says building a road through the refuge would shatter the remoteness that protects birds and other wildlife. Ash Adams / Reveal

A few hundred miles to the north, in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, where the brant breed and nest, Myron P. Naneng Sr. is a Yup’ik lifelong subsistence hunter and former president of a Native association of leaders representing 56 villages.

Beginning 35 years ago, the Yup’ik, Aleut, and other Alaska Natives agreed to protect geese from subsistence hunting so they could recover from low numbers.

“Building a damaging road now, right through some of the most important and sensitive habitat for brant and emperor geese, would be contrary to the years of conservation work,” Naneng said at a hearing before a House subcommittee in 2017.

“All of us contend with weather delays, expensive travel and long trips to the city for medical care. … But it is not realistic to build roads to all of the Alaska communities,” he added.

The land deal with Zinke is not yet final, pending completion of the surveying and an appraisal. Nine environmental groups have filed suit to stop it.

A battle over its legality centers on two laws: the National Environmental Policy Act and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The laws require a study of projects’ environmental effects and consideration of alternatives.

The environmental groups allege that the swap of refuge land is illegal because it does not have conservation purposes and needs a full review and congressional approval. The Trump administration argues that the Alaska act exempts conveying land to Native communities and that provisions don’t apply because it already traded away the land and, therefore, the road would not be built in officially designated wilderness.

A company town

It’s a Sunday morning in September in King Cove, and the Peter Pan Seafoods plant is operating 24 hours a day. Some 300 workers are packing pollock for fish sticks, Pacific cod and crab for restaurants, and black cod for the most fortunate. In summer sockeye season, the workforce reaches 500 in one of North America’s biggest salmon canneries, which sells salmon under the labels Deming’s or Double “Q.”

Commercial fishing boats — as small as 30 feet and as big as 300 feet — operating in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska are pulling up to the plant with their fresh catch. The fish and shellfish are processed and sent frozen atop 400-foot barges to markets in the Lower 48, Europe, and Asia. The previous day, Peter Pan processed 800,000 pounds of seafood.

Wearing hairnets, smocks, and earplugs, the workers tend to conveyor belts, freezer rooms, and chopping tables. They sleep in dormitories in King Cove. Their long shifts, minimum-wage jobs, and foreign languages separate them from the town’s more comfortable residents in fishing families.

On this Sunday morning, Irene “Koochie” Christiansen, 83, is carefully making her way from her home near the cannery to the Russian Orthodox church, where she gives weekly readings. As she lights candles, her soft prayers in Aleut and English fill the church adorned with icons and bells from another church in the nearby village of Belkofski, where she grew up.

Irene Christiansen, 83, lights candles in the Russian Orthodox church in King Cove, Alaska. A respected elder and one of only two in King Cove who speak Aleut, Christiansen is among the few in the town who speaks against the planned road through the wildlife refuge. Ash Adams / Reveal

In the Aleut way, she invites some visitors back to her place for flaky salmon pie. Christiansen grew up trapping animals in Belkofski, which was settled by Russian fur traders. She worked 16-hour shifts at the cannery and is grateful for the wages that paid for her cozy house and the help she gets from prosperous Aleut fishing families.

Christiansen said that if she had a medical emergency, she wouldn’t want to travel over a winding 37-mile, windswept route. Only a respected elder such as Christiansen, one of only two in King Cove who speak Aleut, would feel confident speaking out against the road so popular with King Cove’s fishing families and political leaders.

One day, her son Cal took her berry-picking on the road that now ends at the refuge’s wilderness boundary. The road makes no sense to her.

“Let’s go home,” she told her son.

Eyes On The Prize Of Glucose Monitoring

People with diabetes have to monitor their blood regularly, and this should not be a shock to anyone, but unless you are in the trenches you may not have an appreciation for exactly what that entails and how awful it can be. To give a quick idea, some diabetics risk entering a coma or shock because drawing blood is painful or impractical at the moment. The holy grail of current research is to create a continuous monitor which doesn’t break the skin and can be used at home. Unaided monitoring is also needed to control automatic insulin pumps.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, gave up where Noviosense, a Netherlands company owned by [Dr. Christopher Wilson], may gain some footing. Instead of contact lenses which can alter the flow of fluids across the eye, Noviosense places their sensor below the lower eyelid. Fluids here flow regardless of emotion or pain, so the readings correspond to the current glucose level. Traditionally, glucose levels are taken through blood or interstitial fluid, aka tissue fluid. Blood readings are the most accurate but the interstitial fluid is solid enough to gauge the need for insulin injection, and the initial trial under the eyelid showed readings on par with the interstitial measurements.

Hackers are not taking diabetes lying down, some are developing their own insulin and others are building an electronic pancreas.

Via IEEE Spectrum.

On this day: Mt Kosciuszko put on the map

ON THE EVENING OF 12 March 1840 Polish geologist Sir Pauł Edmund de Strzelecki left his expedition party behind and made the final ascent to summit of the highest peak in Australian alone – or so he claimed.

For more than a century subsequent, a cartological debate raged as to whether Strzelecki actually scaled Mt Kosciuszko (2228m) or nearby Mt Townsend (2209m), though consensus has since sided with the Polish count.

In Strzelecki’s account, he parted with prominant grazier James MacArthur on the peak of Mt Townsend when his surveying equipment revealed a higher massif several kilometres away.

Uninterested in continuing, MacArthur returned to supper being prepared by their Aboriginal guides Charlie Tarra and Jackey at base camp. For him, the expedition was purely a commercial exersize in looking for suitable territory to expand his sprawling landholdings.

Strzelecki would return in darkness hours later, bruised from several falls, but having added the ascent of Australia’s highest peak to a growing list of impressive achievements.

Flying the Polish flag on the roof of Australia

Arriving in Australia in 1839 and departing in 1843, Strzelecki covered more than 11,000km of Australia in over four years. Many geological features bear his name, from the Strzelecki Desert in South Australia to the Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria. He was among the first Europeans to lead expeditions into these regions. 

From Chile to Canada, Hawaii to Tahiti, Strzelecki had already travelled the world, pioneering the sciences of geology and mineralogy. After returning to Europe he would recieve a Gold Founder’s Medal, Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society and in 1869 a knighthood from Queen Victoria.

Strzelecki dedicated the Kosciuszko expedition to two of his compatriots, with one private and one very public homage.

The mountain he named in honour of a military hero of both the American and Polish revolutions, and a staunch supporter of slave and serf emancipation: Tadeusz Kościuszko. A white daisy picked on its peak was pressed and sent to his lifelong sweetheart, Adyna Turno. Separated after youthful romance, the two maintained correspondence but never met again until he they were in their 60s. Neither married.

While Turno waited stoically for Strzelecki in the homeland, he was building an international reputation – at once dandy, intellectual, humanitarian and patriot.

Tadeusz Kościuszko. (Courtesy National Digital Library Polona)

Polish charmer and chancer 

In a 2010 article in The Monthly, author Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz wrote of Strzelecki’s chance encounter with the Lady Jane Franklin at a dinner party in Sydney’s Government House.

The wife of Van Diemen’s Land Governor James Franklin, Lady Franklin is credited with making Tasmania the intellectual centre of the Australian colonies during her husband’s term of office. In a letter to a friend, she wrote she was “enchanted” by the Polish count’s elegance, cleverness, fire and vivacity. 

Manners, breeding and exotic tales made Strzelecki a hot ticket in dining halls and academies the world over, Shane says.

“He was a bit of a charmer and a bit of a ‘chancer’ and incredibly intellectually curious,” Shane says. 

Part of the Polish diaspora 

Strzelecki’s patriotic cause added to his allure. Inspired by Kościuszko and the American Revolution, Poland was the second country in the world to adopt a constitution. It was an act which quickly drew the ire and armies of its powerful neighbours and saw Poland cease to exist as an independent nation for more than 120 years.

“It was one of the great romantic causes of the 19th Century,” Shane says. “Strzelecki was going round hoisting the flag for Polish nationalism at a time when the Polish nation didn’t really exist, but resided in the imagination at fancy dinner parties and in this particular class of people in the Polish diaspora.”

But the count was not all fancy dinner parties. A plaque to be unveiled later this month in Dublin will honour his role as famine relief agent in Ireland’s Great Famine.

From 1846 to 1848, Strzelecki put his organisational skills and energy into the philanthropic effort as Ireland was ravaged by mass starvation and disease. Strzelecki refused payment from the Crown for his work, though he was appointed by her Majesty an ordinary member of the 3rd Class of the Civil Division of the Bath.

Strzelecki connecting Polish-Australians to Kosciuszko

Today, the Polish community in Australia continues to champion the ideals of their two forebears associated with Snowy Mountains.

Andrzej Kozek, a member of the Kosciuszko Heritage organisation, says he views Australia’s highest mountain as a cultural monument akin to Kosciuszko Mound in Krakow, after which the Australian peak was also named.

“Kosciuszko fought for equal rights for all people of all races and all religions,” Kozek says. “He is a symbol for values which are so cherished today in Australia and we try to keep this legacy and our cultural heritage alive.”

Kosciuszko Heritage also maintains a relationship with the traditional owners of the Australian Alps. Kozek says the skills of guides Tarra and Jackey were crucial to the success of the Strzelecki’s expedition, as was their respectful relations with the tribes whose lands they passed through. This included the Ngarigo, who would visit the Snowy Mountain highlands in warmer months to feast on hordes of migratory Bogong moths.

“We meet with the Ngarigo people at NAIDOC week and always invite them to festivals we hold in Jindabyne,” Kozek says. “It is for us important to stay in touch and continue the tradition of Kosciuszko and Strzelecki.”

Dances With Donkeys

Elizabeth Warren has to worry about more than Cherokees tomorrow. The Harvard law school professor and sainted champion of the financially reformed middle class will likely face a primary challenger after the state’s Democratic Party Convention on Saturday. That challenger, Marisa Defranco, is a less hawkish immigration lawyer and self-described wisenheimer in need of only 15% of the Convention vote to force a primary–an easily attainable margin, the New York Times reported Sunday.

MA political guru Professor Peter Ubertaccio deems a competition good for the progressive cause:

Progressivism began as more than just a policy regime designed to ameliorate the social and economic inequalities that existed in turn of the 20th century America.  It was also an anti-party movement designed to strike at the power party bosses had at their disposal to dispense nominations, control patronage, and obstruct national regulation over state and local affairs.  Primary elections emerged as one of the most powerful tools used by progressives to make parties answerable to the party faithful.  Ordinary voters gained the right to choose party nominees and that right has been fairly sacrosanct ever since.

But Defranco may make some Democrats nervous because she does not partake of the meliorist progressive tradition: her website announces support for single-payer health care, massive “green jobs” subsidies, opposition to free trade, and outrage over student debt. Defranco is more William Jennings Bryan than Bob Lafollette. And while some of her “issues” prose is slightly awkard–on women: “I do not reduce us simply to our uteri”–her position on Iranian intervention unequivocally guts the usual bipartisan drivel: “We. Are. Not. Going. To. War. With. Iran.”  She loathes the military industrial complex, and urges total withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defranco’s skepticism of bellicosity puts her at odds with the progressive Warren, and the largely neoconservative incumbent Sen. Scott Brown. The less hawkish stance might connect with Bay State voters, who were less-than-thrilled with the aggressive Bush years. And Defranco’s antiwar standard could offer a legitimate alternative to the leading candidates, who show little interest in discussing actual issues.

If Defranco’s authentic bent and underdog status catch on, they could cause trouble for the state’s Democratic machine so effectively derided by Brown in his 2010 victory over Martha Coakley. Early tension has already surfaced. Governor Deval Patrick, known for his close ties to President Obama, has endorsed Warren, inducing an uncomfortable skepticism in Boston Mayor Thomas Mennino, who told the Boston Herald, “This is not the time or the place for endorsements right now.” Warren’s establishment status comes with a large fundraising advantage–according to the Associated Press, her cup overflows with $15.8 million snagged through March 31 against the paltry $40,000 in Defranco’s clinging coffers–but may tar her as an elitist. And with the grassroots no longer in love with Brown, it’s not difficult to imagine Defranco emerging as a sponge for populist discontent.

A Defranco primary victory could put President Obama in a precarious position, with  Brown ideologically closer to the president than the Democrat in a crucial Senate race. Defranco is currently far behind Warren in the polls, and winning the nomination requires far more than 15% of a Convention vote. The race may matter more for what it reveals about the president’s decidedly mixed approach to foreign policy: his politicized machinations may counter some Republican attacks, but his own party could buckle.

Maybe it’s not Elizabeth Warren’s seat, either.

Students participate in Jump Rope for Heart

ALISO VIEJO – Students and teachers from Oak Grove Elementary School in Aliso Viejo participated in the American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart day, an annual event that promotes healthy hearts through exercise. All students in grades kindergarten through fifth jumped rope on the playground with their friends and teachers.