Russian billboard pays homage to Nazi bomber crew

motherland_billboard_WW2_mix

Those who adhere to the axiom that there’s no such thing as bad publicity will find at least one Russian politician who likely believes differently.

Sergei Gridnev, mayor of Ivanteyevka, outside Moscow, has apologized after billboards celebrating the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s World War II victory, set for May 9, appeared around town featuring a German air force crew.

Not surprising given that the Soviet Union bore the lion’s share of Hitler’s wrath between 1941-45, suffering at least 25 million dead, the image of a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 bomber crew rather than that of Soviet soldiers didn’t sit particularly well with locals.

Area news portal Ivanteyevka Today has since owned up to the blunder, according to the BBC.

It commissioned 20 banners to mark the end of the conflict, but confessed to “negligence” in choosing the photo, which had the unfortunate tagline “They fought for the Motherland.”

Also not helping matters: The brutal Battle of Moscow, fought from October 1941 to January 1942 and an integral aspect of the Nazi assault on the Soviet Union, code named Operation Barbarossa, claimed 1.5 million lives.

Attempts to point out that the photo dated from 1940, the year before Germany invaded the Soviet Union, when the two nations were actually allies, did little to alleviate heartburn.

Gridnev says local people, war veterans and the whole of Russia can rest assured that “he’ll punish those responsible for the ‘appalling incident,” the state news agency Tass reported.

“The local branch of the pro-Putin All-Russia People’s Front says it spotted the billboard and demanded its removal, and 12 hours after it went up the offending image came right back down again,” according to the BBC.

On the bright side for Gridnev and everyone at Ivanteyevka Today, if this had happened when Stalin was in power, everyone involved with this gaffe would have already been tortured in Lubyanka Prison and then lined up and shot.

(Top: Billboard in Ivanteyevka, Russia, celebrating the upcoming 70th anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany with image of Nazi bomber crew and words “They fought for the Motherland.”

When fates and florists conspire to skewer good intentions

wilted_red_roses

What follows are a few of the impractical skills that I’ve honed over the years: making my children laugh during church services; catching snakes, turtles and a variety of other very bitey wildlife; and, to a lesser degree, committing myriad marital gaffes.

In the latter case, I’m fortunate to have a wife who is not only loving but also very forgiving.

Like a benevolent pontiff lovingly passing out absolution to the masses in St. Peter’s Square, she has forgiven me many transgressions over the past few years, including:

  • Bringing a large rat snake into the house while she was away working one weekend afternoon;
  • Letting a box turtle roam free in the house for several hours while she was working on another weekend afternoon. (She has a fear not only of snakes but of all reptiles);
  • Getting my car stuck in a giant mud hole – twice – while out in the country and requiring it to be pulled out by a wrecker at no small charge;
  • Losing my driver’s license in New England while we were on a recent vacation up north, forcing her to not only handle much of the driving from that point forward but also having to deal with a unionized Department of Motor Vehicles employee in Rhode Island who proceeded to display every stereotype connected with the rude, disinterested veteran DMV employee; and
  • Committing countless foolish acts too inane or embarrassing to specify through being forgetful, oblivious and/or an all-around general oaf.

Suffice it to say, Mrs. Cotton Boll has received many a flower bouquet over the years from yours truly.

Last week arose yet again another of those instances when it came time for me to try to make amends. But, given the gravity of my latest faux pas, I thought my actions warranted a delivery from florist instead of store-bought flowers. And because we live in the so-called information age I turned to the Internet.

While there’s no question the Internet can do some wonderful things, such as putting an amazing amount of knowledge at our fingertips, I’ve found that it’s been staggeringly proficient at creating chaos, as well.

Let’s just say that my attempt to smooth things over with the Missus by relying on technology has ended up causing an inordinate amount of grief, nearly all of it mine, which is now stretching into its fifth day.

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Center for Pecan Innovation sees “tremendous opportunities”

pecans-ground

While I’m of the opinion that the highest and most noble use of the pecan involves their placement in a pie, the folks at the Georgia Pecan Commission have higher aspirations. They recently established the Center for Pecan Innovation, with the goal of finding new uses for Carya illinoinensis.

The initial focus of the Atlanta-based center will be new food products made from pecans, according to John Robison, the commission’s chairman.

“The recent 30-year study from Harvard University showing that regular nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer or heart disease is just one more supporting voice to the center, which was established to encourage more companies to find ways to use pecans in their products,” he said.

Beyond that, the commission sees opportunities for biodegradable pecan shells, from roadbeds and packing material to bath products. Cosmetic companies are looking for natural products to replace plastic micro-beads in facial cleansers, and the Journal of Food Science reports that a new study shows that extract from pecan shells may be effective at protecting meats such as chicken from listeria growth.

The US produces the vast majority of the pecans harvested annually – as much as 95 percent, or 300 million to 400 million pounds.

Georgia leads the nation in pecan production, growing 40 percent of the US total, more than the next two states – New Mexico and Texas – combined, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Map showing, in blue, US states where pecans are grown.

Map showing, in blue, US states where pecans are grown.

“In 2012 Georgia led the nation in pecan production, harvesting 100 million pounds for the domestic and global markets,” Robison said. “China is one of the biggest markets for our in-shell pecans, but there still is tremendous opportunity for companies to use pecan pieces – even the shells.  The Center for Pecan Innovation will work to develop new products that use Georgia pecans.”

Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said the Georgia Pecan Commission is taking a creative approach to agriculture by establishing the center.

“Farmers today do far more than just grow food and fiber,” he said. “They take an active part in promoting their crops to grow their markets, as we have done with our Georgia Grown program. The Center for Pecan Innovation is yet another step to increase awareness for Georgia pecans.”

The Georgia Pecan Commission, begun in 1995, funds research, educational and promotional programs in order to increase demand for Georgia pecans.

Professional baseball team peddles tickets for 4 cents apiece

blue rocks

Opening Day for the Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks is still two months away, but Mother Nature didn’t do the Class A minor league baseball team any favors this week.

As a promotional offer, tickets for Blue Rocks’ first home game were aligned with the temperature. Whatever the thermostat read when the box office opened at 8 a.m. Monday, that’s what fans would pay for a ticket for the club’s April 16 home opener.

With the recent cold snap that’s moved through much of the Eastern United States recently, the temperature in Wilmington Monday morning was 4 degrees.

As a result, fans could snap up groups of eight tickets, which normally range for $48 to $88 total, for 32 cents in all, a discount of more than 99 percent, according to ESPN.

“It’s really cold here, and we want to get the fans thinking about us,” said Stefani Rash, director of tickets for the Carolina League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

Fans could also order tickets by phone and through the Internet, although they were charged a $5 handling fee.

The Blue Rocks sold about 3,600 Opening Day seats, and more than 200 fans took advantage of the chance to buy eight tickets for a grand total of 32 cents.

This is the second year that the Blue Rocks have held the promotion. Last year the price was 20 cents a ticket, ESPN reported.

Although the team leaves money on the table in the short term, the promotion ensues that fans experience the ballpark on the first day it’s open, Rash said.

If the temperature had dropped to zero or below, the club would have given out tickets for free, according to Rash.

(Top: Wilmington Blue Rocks in action during a game in which a ticket promotion was apparently not being utilized.)

As global cotton reserves peak, future prices reach 5-year low

cotton nc

With cotton prices dropping to a five-year low late last month, it’s expected farmers around the globe will cut planting in the coming season, according to the International Cotton Advisory Committee.

The effect of lower prices is already being realized in crop planning in the Southern Hemisphere, the executive director of the committee said during an industry conference in India last week.

With the US government estimating that global production will outstrip production for a fifth straight growing season and inventories at an all-time high, New York cotton futures recently tumbled to their lowest level since September 2009.

Slowing demand from China, the world’s biggest consumer, will shrink exports from the U.S. and India, the world’s largest shippers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, according to AgWeb.

“Everybody is trying to sell and prices are going to go down because supply is higher,” Terry Townsend, a former executive director of the committee, told the conference. “That process of declining prices, farmers losing money, and some farmers going out of business, reducing cotton production is inevitable.”

Cotton futures have slipped below 60 cents a pound, with March 2015 futures closing at 59.18 cents a pound, down more than 70 percent from an all-time high of $2.197 reached in 2011, according to Cotton Market News.

Global reserves are expected to reach an all-time high of 107.36 million bales, each weighing 480 pounds, according to USDA data.

Don’t look for prices on cotton products to reflect the downturn in futures prices, however. There is often a disconnect between the return farmers get for their efforts and what consumers pay for finished products.

California paper asks newsroom staff to help with delivery

Orange County Register

As a former journalist, I’ve had a hard time watching the newspaper industry’s continuing decline. Across the United States, papers are struggling to handle the significant drop in advertising revenue that’s taken place over the 12 years or so.

None of the four daily papers I toiled at during my career are doing particularly well at present. Nowhere is that more evident than at the last paper I worked for, in Columbia, SC.

When I joined the paper as a banking reporter in 1999, it had a business staff of seven, an assistant business editor and a business editor. Today, it has a business editor and approximately 1-1/2 business reporters.

I say “approximately” because the two individuals assigned to write business stories will often find themselves covering non-business subjects, as well.

But things could be worse.

Take the Orange County Register, which this week asked its employees, including its reporters and editors, to deliver the paper’s Sunday edition over the next few weeks.

The California newspaper, which has three Pulitzer Prizes to its credit and is one of California’s largest dailies, started the initiative after a switch in distributors wreaked havoc on home delivery, leaving some routes uncovered and thousands of papers undelivered, according to Slate.

The Register asked employees to help deliver the Sunday edition of the paper until its carrier woes are worked out.

As compensation for the task, which involves sorting and delivering 500-600 papers on a full route and can take as much as six hours to complete, employees can earn $150 in Visa gift cards. A smaller route will earn a $100 Visa gift card.

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Falcons’ marketing department takes a short siesta

falcons graphic

It’s long been a running joke that football players are better known for brawn than brains. Apparently, the marketing department of at least one professional football team didn’t pay all that much attention in college, either.

The Atlanta Falcons will be in London this weekend to play the Detroit Lions, part of the National Football League’s effort to broaden its fan base.

To give Falcons fans an inside look at the team’s journey across the Atlantic, the club posted the above infographic detailing the travel schedule.

Someone’s lack of geography knowledge could have proven costly, as the graphic showed the team traveling first to Baltimore and then to somewhere in Spain, rather than London, which would have left them more than 900 miles south of Wembley Stadium.

Fortunately, the Falcons were alerted to the mistake and corrected the error, greatly diminishing chances that a group of extremely large, muscular and no doubt irate men would be left wandering the confines of Barcelona Airport.

(HT: Deadspin)