WHO Lists 12 Deadly Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and the Urgent Need for New Drugs

 

There are all sorts of diseases in the world, and every once in a while comes a certain ‘microorganism’ which creates havoc in the form of dangerous diseases like Ebola, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, and the like. Scientists have time and again come up with effective antibiotics to control the diseases and save lives, but the shocking part is that each year these microbes come back twice as more potent and resistant to the antibiotics. As such it is a constant struggle to reinvent and find effective cures. In such cases, intensive research is the only thing that can save lives as scientists discover more characteristics and behaviour of the triggers.

Recently, WHO published the first-ever list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” that included 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health. The intention was to spread awareness, as well as guide and promote research and development of new antibiotics. There is a serious concern on the growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.
(How Antibiotics May Make You More Prone to Infections)WHO Lists 12 Deadly Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and the Urgent Need for New Drugs

What Did the List Include?

According to the global health body, the list is divided into three categories according to the urgency of need for new antibiotics: critical, high and medium priority.

“The most critical group of all includes multi-drug resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes, and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters. They include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae (including Klebsiella, E. coli, Serratia, and Proteus),” said a WHO statement.

It said that all the bacteria can cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

“These bacteria have become resistant to a large number of antibiotics, including carbapenems and third generation cephalosporins – the best available antibiotics for treating multi-drug resistant bacteria,” said the report.
(Rare Disease Day: 7 Most Rare Diseases in the World and the Importance of Research)

bacteria

High- Medium Priority Type

The second tier includes antibiotics of high priority – for Enterococcus faecium, which is vancomycin-resistant; Staphylococcus aureus, which is methicillin-resistant; Helicobacter pylori, which is clarithromycin-resistant; Campylobacter spp, which is fluoroquinolone-resistant; Salmonellae, which is fluoroquinolone-resistant; and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which is cephalosporin and fluoroquinolone-resistant.

The third tier includes medium priority antibiotics for Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is penicillin-non-susceptible; Haemophilus influenzae, which is ampicillin-resistant; and Shigella spp, which is fluoroquinolone-resistant.

“This list is a new tool to ensure research and development responds to urgent public health needs,” said WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation Marie-Paule Kieny in the statement.

Evelina Tacconelli, Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tubingen and a major contributor to the list, said, “New antibiotics targeting this priority list of pathogens will help to reduce deaths due to resistant infections around the world.

“Waiting any longer will cause further public health problems and dramatically impact on patient care.”

gut bacteria

 

Having Children May Help Increase the Life Span of Parents

 

Parenthood is no easy task. It takes immense effort as well as patience to raise kids, right from toddlers to teenagers and then watch them growing into adults. It is a roller coaster of a ride having to deal with tantrums, sleepless nights, anger issues, so on and so forth. But parenthood also brings along with it many fruitful rewards that can never be matched with anything else. The joy of having a family, sharing happiness, laughter and pain with children, watching them grow up into successful individuals, having them around during old age – it’s an overwhelming experience. And this emotional turmoil actually increases your social behaviour, keeping you active and healthy. Having Children May Help Increase the Life Span of Parents: StudyAccording to a recent study done in Sweden, men and women with at least one child had lower death risks than those without. And fathers are said to gain more in life expectancy than mothers.

The study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health stated, “At 60 years of age, the difference in life expectancy was two years for men and 1.5 years for women” compared to those with no kids. Researchers tracked the lifespan of more than 1.4 million people (men and women) born between 1911 and 1925 and living in Sweden. They also gathered data on whether the participants were married and had children.

childrens day

By age 80, men who fathered children had a remaining life expectancy of seven years and eight months, compared to seven years for childless men, said the team. For mothers, life expectancy at 80 was nine years and six months, while for childless women it was eight years and 11 months.

However, the researchers admitted that the study merely pointed out a correlation, and cannot conclude that having children is the cause of the life expectancy gains. The parents benefitted more probably from social and financial support from their children in old age, or a healthier lifestyle as compared to those without children.

The association between having children and longer life was found in married and unmarried people, but appeared to be strongest in single, older men, said the study. This could be because unmarried men relied more heavily on their offspring in the absence of a partner.

 

Long-Term Use of Antibiotics Can Put You at the Risk of Cancer

Antibiotics have long been seen as a class of wonder drugs which could fight bacterial invasions and viruses and bring relief in about no time. These are essentially anti-bacterial. Over recent years there has been much debate over the rise in the consumption of antibiotics. Prolonged use has made human body resistant to its effects while others believe that bacteria, viruses and pathogens have become much stronger and therefore resistant to the present class of drugs. Developing a newer, more potent army of antibiotic would suggest an added pressure on human health. What is little know is the fact that prolonged use of potent antibiotics can meddle with the functioning of gut bacteria (the good bacteria that is essential for gut health and immunity) that feeds on yeast and unhealthy bacteria found in our body.

“These healthy bacteria form the basis of our immune system – or they did until we took antibiotics because antibiotics regularly kill our healthy bacteria. And that can set you up for numerous problems down the road – including some very serious problems,” states Kim Evans in her piece for HuffPost US. Evans’ article published in the year 2009 throws light on the relation between prolonged antibiotic use and development of cancer. She talks about a Roman oncologist, Dr. Tullio Simoncini, who describes cancer as an advanced fungal growth or candida overgrowth, “a kind of fungal growth that develops after using antibiotics,” Evans.

new cancer 620

Another research, closely tying antibiotics use and cancer together, is the latest that was published in the online journal, Gut. “The findings, if confirmed by other studies, suggest the potential need to limit the use of antibiotics and sources of inflammation that may drive tumour formation,” noted the study.

Antibiotics fundamentally alter the gut microbiome, by curbing the diversity and number of bacteria, and reducing resistance to ‘hostile’ bugs, they say. Previous research points to depletion of certain types of bacteria and an abundance of others in patients with bowel cancer. This might all have a crucial role the development of bowel cancer, added to which the bugs that require antibiotics may induce inflammation, which is a known risk for the development of bowel cancer.

It was found that prolonged antibiotic use by people in their early to mid-life can put them at a heightened risk of abnormal growths in the colon and rectum. These abnormal growths are called polyps or colorectal adenomas, which precede the development of most cases of bowel cancer.

colon cancer

For the research, the team drew health records of 121,700 US nurses ageing 30 to 55. Health records included detailed questionnaires answered by the participants and other details on demographics, dietary habits, lifestyle factors, medical history and disease development of the participants. For the purposes of the current study, analysis of the data was restricted to 16,642 women who were aged 60 and older in 2004 and were able to provide a history of antibiotic use between the ages of 20 and 59. The participants also had at least one bowel investigation (colonoscopy) between 2004 and 2010. 1195 adenomas were newly diagnosed in this group. Recent use of antibiotics within the past four years wasn’t associated with a heightened risk of an adenoma diagnosis, but long term use in the past was.

Those who had consumed antibiotics for two months or more were 36 percent more likely to be diagnosed with an adenoma when compared to the participants who didn’t take antibiotics for any extended period in their 20s and 30s.

The team also compared women who had never taken antibiotics between their 20s and 50s to the ones who had consumed the drugs for over 15 days between their 20s and 50s. 73 percent of the latter group was found to be more susceptible to be diagnosed with an adenoma.

 

Business to consumer will remain one of the fastest-growing segments

 

BNP Paribas Asset Management India Pvt. Ltd’s track record, post Anand Shah’s joining the fund house in 2011 has been good. But, the calendar year of 2016 exposed chinks in stock picking strategy. Shah, as the fund house’s chief investment officer (now he is also the deputy chief executive officer and oversees the fund management as well as sales), has always liked investing in shares of consumer-facing companies. But last year, demonetisation and the entry of Reliance Jio in the telecom space adversely impacted his portfolios. His holdings in the telecom sector proved very costly. Will he be able to recover from this fall? Mint spoke to Shah to find out his future strategy. Edited excerpts:

Earlier this year, you had said that demonetisation had impacted your fund house’s equity schemes’ portfolios. It has been around four months since demonetisation. What’s your further assessment?

Re-monetisation appears to be now happening. Money is coming in. The economy that was largely cash-led has suffered, but things there as well are slowly resuming back to normal. So, four-wheelers never really got impacted. But two-wheelers, which largely dealt in cash, were impacted. Multiplexes, which largely dealt with credit cards and online bookings didn’t suffer as much, but single screen theatres where people book tickets largely by cash, suffered. Formal economies didn’t get impacted. The informal economy got adversely impacted.

But things are getting back to normal now. Most of our equity schemes have recovered their losses more or less.

You have always liked businesses that face the consumer. After the demonetisation impact, no matter how temporary an impact it has appeared to have had on the various industries, have you changed your likings about the sort of sectors you invest in?Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The B2C businesses has created wealth for investors for decades. They also have more entry barriers and so it is not easy to take away a retail consumer in a hurry. There are valid reasons to invest in B2C companies. Further, the other two segments (business to business or B2B and business to government or B2G) have made a comeback.

In the B2B space, the metals sector is back as the Chinese economy has normalized and there’s hope of an economic recovery in the US. We have exposure to this segment.

In the B2G segment, the government’s spending is up. There are businesses that will benefit from government spending.

A bulk of our portfolios will remain in B2C businesses because comfortable demographics will ensure that it will remain one of the fastest growing segments in the market. On top of it, before demonetisation, we were looking at these companies to do well on the back of a good monsoon last year as well as the pay commission. Both these factors are not going away in a hurry. So, to us, this (demonetisation) is temporary, the B2C segment will only bounce back with a vengeance.

Your schemes’ performance went down big time in the calendar year 2016. Was their exposure to telecom sector the only reason or were there other reasons?

Two things happened together. The good part of the portfolio, business to consumer (B2C) segment companies, which gave me 600-700 bps outperformance for the last 8 years was dealt a blow (demonetisation), which is a once in a century phenomenon. One basis point is one-hundreth of a percentage point. I believe we won’t see another demonetisation for next one century at least. So while the fall in share prices of our holdings in the telecom sector stocks could have been absorbed by the otherwise resilient B2C companies, even the latter got impacted by demonetisation.

When you were buying more shares of Bharti Airtel Ltd throughout 2015-16, did you not see Reliance Jio’s impending impact? There was a lot of buzz around—and expectation from—the telecom company. Something big was expected by most of us.

We were prepared for a 50% lower pricing in data. We were not prepared for free handouts. Nobody anticipated. We have seen in the past that competition exists where the likes of Telenor and Tata Telecom enter the markets offering 30-50% discounts in tariffs and plans. And slowly and gradually, new entrants capture market share. That’s how B2C companies work. They capture market share, but they don’t capture it overnight.

For example, despite some banks like Kotak Bank and Yes Bank offering (close to) 6% interest on savings bank rate, we don’t see people leaving their banks and queuing up outside these banks. The B2B segment is price sensitive; price doesn’t generally matter in the B2C segment.

But Reliance Jio’s strategy and entry was extremely disruptive. It destroyed the sector’s health.

What is your outlook on the telecom sector now and where do you go from here as far your schemes’ exposure to this sector is concerned?

We have already sold our holdings in Idea Cellular much earlier than when Jio came, as that’s where we suffered large underperformance. Bharti Airtel has not performed badly for us, actually.

The telecom sector now is in a complete flux where balance sheets have grown because companies now have to deliver a 4G network in 2017 and 2018, as opposed to 2020. They had to prepone their capital expenditure, be it spectrum purchase or electronic capex. Typically, there is a 10-year cycle for every technology cycle. So, if 3G came in 2010, 4G was expected in around 2020. So now telecom companies have expanded their balance sheets, but their revenues have shrunk due to stiff competition. This combination reduces Return on Capital Employed and Return on Equity, as an industry, to abysmally low levels.

Consolidation has just begun, which is good. We still have more firms than many developed nations. Abroad, there are 2-3 firms, so we will see another year of pain, before another round of consolidation happens.

Analysts have pushed back earnings visibility further. What do you think?

We do have earnings problem at Nifty level but that’s not true for quite a few companies. Despite pockets of volatility in the past 3-4 years, we haven’t had problems of earnings growth for the companies in our portfolios.

If you look at financial year (FY) 2015, the first half (up to September 2014) was profitable, we didn’t have growth issues. We had a de-growth on year-on-year earnings between September 2014 and March 2015. Most of the de-growth came from commodity producers. Earnings didn’t collapse for everybody in the second half of FY2015. And thus, if you look at entire FY15, half of the Nifty companies’ earnings grew at 15% average, and half of Nifty companies’ earnings fell by 15%. And the same story continued in first half of FY16 because year-on-year, the commodity prices were lower. While lower commodity prices were great for macro economy, it had some negative impact on the earnings of the commodity producers.

In the second half of FY16, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced asset quality review of banks’ lending portfolios. Since companies had to recognize their bad assets more stringently, their earnings, led by those of the corporate banks, fell. Those banks that had lent to metal companies suffered further as commodity prices had fallen. And in the second half of 2016, crude oil prices fell from 50$ a barrel to 30$ a barrel and steel prices further went down. So commodity producers and corporate banks dragged down Nifty earning growth in FY16. The country as a whole wasn’t messed up. Some pockets suffered. We had decent growth in earnings for our underlying companies in FY2015 and FY2016.

FY2017 was looking fine with good monsoons (after 2 years) and spending boost due to implementation of pay commission for government employees. But then, in the second half came demonetization, and that has put new doubts on earnings visibility on most of the companies.

Coming back to present times, and looking at expectations for FY2018, we believe that our economy is doing well. Growth is coming back. To a lesser extent than we would like, but I think the government and RBI are doing the right things. Lower interest rates, lower inflation, investments on infrastructure—everything is moving in the right direction. It’s the harder way of economy recovery; wherein we are spending money on roads, railways which doesn’t give us GDP growth rate immediately.

But, I believe these are the right things to do for sustainable economic growth as well sustainable earnings recovery. We believe more than half of the index companies are already benefiting from these activities and it’s not that all the segments of the market are doing badly. There are plenty of opportunities to do stock picking.

Last year apart, your overall long term performance has been good. Yet, BNP Paribas Asset Management India Ltd’s overall assets under management hasn’t grown as much, as opposed to the industry.

Till December 2015, BNP Paribas Asset Management India Ltd was one of the fastest growing asset management companies in the Indian mutual funds industry. Our distribution strength lies in global markets. So globally, we are one of the seven largest offshore funds in the world that invest in India. Our Indian arm is profitable making it one of the very few fund houses in our size bracket to be profitable.

We have to now stabilize our performance, which is happening already. We have strengthened our tie-ups with distributors and last but not the least, we are putting in place our fixed income pie. We are making investments wherever needed.

Next boss misses annual bonus as high street stores feel the pinch

 

Next boss Lord Wolfson has missed out on his annual bonus for the first time in 18 years amid tough times on the British high street.

Wolfson’s total pay package dived by 58% to £1.8m in the year to 28 January, according to the fashion and homewares retailer’s annual report published on Tuesday, after a key earnings per share target was missed. Last year, Wolfson earned a £503,000 annual bonus as part of his £4.3m total pay package.

Total remuneration for Next’s board almost halved as all directors missed out on their annual bonus after a failure to stock enough wardrobe staples contributed to the chain’s first drop in annual profits for eight years.

The company has also struggled in a tough market as shoppers spend less on clothes and more on eating out and holidays while competition online, where Next once offered far superior service, has increased as the likes of Marks & Spencer and Debenhams have modernised their operations.

However, all the directors were awarded a payout in recognition of Next’s long-term shares and earnings performance over the three years to January. Wolfson was awarded £606,000 in shares on top of his basic pay, down from £2.2m last year.Next’s profits fell last year for first time in eight years.

In the year ahead, Wolfson will get a 1% rise in basic salary to £773,000 and could earn up to £3.95m if he achieves the maximum possible bonus payouts.

New executive directors Michael Law and Jane Shields, who joined the board in 2013, will also get a 1% rise in basic salary to £416,000 each. But the annual report says the board handed Law, the operations director, and Shields, the sales and marketing director, a much lower pay rise than the 15% they had planned to implement this year in the light of poor profits.

Finance director Amanda James received a 16% pay rise to £416,200 in February but that was less than the 18% the board previously anticipated.

Wolfson has said he is “extremely cautious” about the outlook for the year ahead as shoppers continue to spend less on clothes, growth in consumer incomes weakens and prices rise as a result of the fall in sterling.

House of Fraser finance director Colin Elliot said on Tuesday he was also cautious and expecting “another challenging year” in 2017 amid uncertainty over the UK’s relationship with Europe and the snap general election announced on Tuesday.

He said the department store chain would be updating its shops and adding in more restaurants and cafes as it tried to use its high street space differently in the face of a tough clothing market. The group is planning to drop five own-label womenswear lines including Therapy, Linea Weekend, Episode and Dickins & Jones as part of the shift in emphasis.

Elliot said womenswear had been the toughest sector for House of Fraser in 2016 but strong sales of beauty products and a good Christmas helped more than double pre-tax profits, before exceptional items, to £3.4m. Sales remained steady at £1.3bn, helped by a 16% rise online.

Chairman Frank Slevin said a new chief executive for House of Fraser, to replace Nigel Oddy who formally exits later this month, would be announced very soon. He said the group’s Chinese owner Sanpower, which bought a controlling stake in 2014, was committed to opening stores in its homeland despite rumours that it might have lost interest. “House of Fraser is not up for sale,” Slevin said.

Starbucks is entering a new era and 4 jokes reveal the biggest problems haunting its business

 

  • Starbucks is sandwiched between inexpensive fast-food chains and high-end “Third Wave” coffee shops. 
  • While it built its empire on its cool, Euro-inspired image, Starbucks is increasingly known for “basic” drinks like the Unicorn Frappuccino. 
  • Moving away from the core brand sent Starbucks “over its skis” in the past, the CEO told Business Insider – and he’s well aware of past mistakes.
  • Starbucks’ new mission: to be everything to everyone. 

The other weekend I went with my family to a coffee shop that my mother deemed “the most beautiful” Starbucks she’d ever seen.

It was a sprawling, comfortable space on the main street in suburban Michigan, where we were visiting family. The exterior was covered in wood shingles and river rocks. Customers lounged in chairs outside and tapped away on their laptops at tables indoors. Chatty baristas were happy to help us with my mom’s low-cal venti iced-coffee order, my cold brew, my dad’s tea, and my brother’s request to use a bathroom.

Starbucks

It had little in common with the drive-thru Starbucks my parents visit in North Carolina or the crowded store where I pick up my mobile coffee orders in New York City.

These differences show the central tension of what Starbucks has become: all things to all people, and in the process, a brand that’s become intermittently muddled and decidedly middlebrow.

Once the chain persuaded Americans to spend $4 on a cup of coffee with Italian names for drinks and sizes that made coffee an elite experience bordering on pretentiousness, the Starbucks of 2017 is just as known for the super-sweet Pumpkin Spice Latte and the made-for-Instagram Unicorn Frappuccino.

Starbucks is sandwiched between low-end brands like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s, which siphon off some of Starbucks’ customers with lower prices, and, at the other end, the “Third Wave” coffee chains such as Intelligentsia and Blue Bottle, with their precise pour-overs and baristas who make art out of latte foam.

As Starbucks enters a new era, with plans to open 10,000 locations in five years, and the move of longtime CEO Howard Schultz (the man behind the brand’s most revolutionary choices) from chief executive to chairman of the board, the company is trying to figure out if it can be everything to everyone.

The means serving Unicorn Frappuccinos for Instagram-obsessed college students, nitro cold brew for snobs, and a morning cup of joe for commuters on the go. All the while, it needs to fend off competition that its own success helped create at both ends of the market.

At Starbucks image is key. And, what some customers think about Starbucks has long been reflected by the jokes about the chain.

The “Venti” joke

Starbucks 1

When Chris Allieri visited Starbucks in Boulder, Colorado, as a freshman at the University of Colorado in 1992, he had to call his parents.

“It was magic, like a temple to coffee,” Allieri, the founder and principal of marketing firm Mulberry & Astor, told Business Insider.

The location, built in a former gas station, was modern, light, and airy. The smell of coffee wafted through the air, as employees ground beans in the store. Baristas – a new word to Americans back then – gave off a perfectly cool vibe, and the coffee options were seemingly endless. Everything about the store was different from the cafes and convenience stores where most people purchased stale-tasting coffee in the ’90s, if they even bought the beverage instead of just making it at home from Folgers Crystals.

On the phone from his dorm, Allieri told his parents he was convinced that Starbucks would be the next big thing.

“I kept saying, ‘This is bigger than coffee – you don’t get it!'” he recalls telling his father. “And I remember him saying, ‘Well, you should buy the stock.’ As if. I was a broke college student. If only I had the money, or the foresight.” If Allieri had purchased $1,000 in Starbucks stock back in 1992 – the year the company went public – he’d have $180,000 today.

The Starbucks experience

Starbucks has made billions of dollars by creating something that didn’t exist: a space where customers could not only treat themselves to fancy Italian-style beverages but also relax and socialize. It was a brand that immediately felt sophisticated and elite, making customers like Allieri feel as if they were joining an exclusive club.

When the first Starbucks opened in New York City, The New York Times had to define what a latte was and explain it was pronounced “LAH-tay.” Starbucks played up its exotic nature in everything it did, down to its sizes, with “grande” and “venti” providing a connection to the Italian coffee culture that inspired Schultz.

“Starbucks was an affordable way to get luxury,” Craig Garthwaite, an assistant professor of strategy at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, told Business Insider. While Starbucks was clearly pricier than your average cup of coffee, it was a small luxury in the grand scheme of things. Most people couldn’t afford to buy a BMW, but they could treat themselves with a “grande vanilla latte” as a small symbol of their expensive tastes.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the little details that set Starbucks apart and allowed it to charge a few extra dollars, were new and foreign – and ridiculed by many. As Starbucks expanded, the chain was mocked for calling its beverage sizes tall, grande, and venti instead of small, medium, and large.

In 2004, “Mr. Language Person” Dave Barry published an article in The Times that hit on the tropes of the venti joke:

Starbucks decided to call its cup sizes “Tall” (meaning “not tall,” or “small”), “Grande” (meaning “medium”) and “Venti” (meaning, for all we know, “weasel snot”). Unfortunately, we consumers, like moron sheep, started actually USING these names. Why? If Starbucks decided to call its toilets “AquaSwooshies,” would we go along with THAT?

Starbucks versus Dunkin’ Donuts

In 2006, the venti jokes were so common that Dunkin’ Donuts launched a campaign lambasting a “certain competitor” for using elitist words that were a perplexing mix of French and Italian. In the ad, which it called “Fritalian,” customers stand, slack jawed, looking at a coffee shop’s menu board filled with a nonsensical mishmash of words, such as “Limon Au Deau,” “Lattcapssreso,” and “Isto Cinno.”

“Delicious lattes from Dunkin’ Donuts – you order them in English, not Fritalian,” the narrator says in the commercial’s conclusion.

Dunkin’ advertising “lattes” shows how mainstream the beverage had become over the last decade, in large part due to Starbucks’ influence. As Starbucks grew, lattes had become a symbol of elitist liberals, out of touch with the average American. In 2004, a conservative PAC ran an ad during the Democratic Caucuses featuring an Iowa couple telling Howard Dean to take his “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving left-wing freak show” back to Vermont.

Yet in 2008, Dunkin’ Donuts was selling more inexpensive versions of Starbucks’ semi-Euro beverages, while maintaining the brand’s all-American identity.

Starbucks didn’t want an all-American identity. For Schultz, confusing, potentially elitist naming conventions weren’t a bug; they were a feature.

“Customers believed that their grande lattes demonstrated that they were better than others – cooler, richer, more sophisticated,” Bryant Simon wrote in his book about Starbucks, “Everything But the Coffee.” “As long as they could get all of this for the price of a cup of coffee, even an inflated one, they eagerly handed over their money, three and four dollars at a clip.”

Starbucks’ strategy has long been different from that of McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts. While Dunkin’ Donuts attracts customers with low prices and convenience, Starbucks’ strategy has been rooted in attracting customers to what Schultz called the “romance and theatre” of the coffee-shop experience.

“Any retailer can throw a few ingredients in a cup and say here’s your latte, but Starbucks has differentiated themselves with the experience,” Melody Overton, the creator of the blog Starbucks Melody, said.

When customers are making venti jokes, Starbucks is at its best, as an aspirational brand that’s unlike any other. The chain’s problems come when the venti becomes the norm.

The Starbucks on every corner joke

Throughout the ’70s and much of the ’80s, Starbucks was a coffee roaster first and a coffee shop second. But in the early ’80s, Schultz joined the company and became convinced that Starbucks could achieve a seemingly impossible goal: remain premium while becoming ubiquitous.

Schultz had never wanted Starbucks to stay small, like other regional chains such as Peet’s. In fact, Schultz left the company for a brief period in the mid-’80s because he was unable to convince Starbucks founders that the company could be an international chain, not just a coffee roaster. In 1987, Schultz acquired the Starbucks’ brand and 17 locations from its founders, who decided to focus their energy on Peet’s. Then Schultz began planting the seeds for one of the most ambitious retail expansions in history.

Between 1998 and 2008, Starbucks grew from 1,886 stores to 16,680.

Starbucks stores

“From the beginning, what they were hoping to be is the third place between home and work,” Garthwaite said, referring to the chain’s sociology-inspired mission to become a meeting place. “To achieve that goal, you have to be everywhere.” And soon Starbucks was.

Even when Starbucks had just 700 stores, the chain seemed pervasive, with NPR’s “All Things Considered” announcing as an April Fools’ joke in 1996  that Starbucks’ was building a “transcontinental coffee slurry pipeline” as part of efforts to become omnipresent. In 2000, an Onion headline read “New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks.” That same year “The Simpsons” aired an episode in which Bart visits a mall in which every store was swiftly being turned into a Starbucks. Lewis Black had a joke in 2002  about seeing a Starbucks across from a Starbucks, which he declared a sign of the end of the universe and evidence against a loving god.

It wasn’t an exaggeration. Around that time, if you stood at just the right spot in New York’s Astor Place, you could see three Starbucks without moving your head.

But unlike the venti jokes, these jabs spelled trouble for the company.

Overexpansion

“The number of new stores got ahead of Starbucks’ ability to have the [employees] to staff those stores,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson told Business Insider. The company “got over its skis,” sacrificing training and upscale marketing for speedy growth and shareholder returns without thinking of the consequences.

As a result, Starbucks made decisions that would leave the company reeling as it moved away from its roots as a sophisticated, luxury brand.

Schultz had stepped down as CEO in 2000. While he remained on the board, new leadership was more focused on expansion than safeguarding Starbucks’ unique brand.

Opening locations across the US and beyond meant adding menu items that appealed to a wider swath of customers, from the failed cocoa-butter Chantico, which launched in 2005 and lasted a year, to the fruity Sorbetto, which launched in 2008 and was pulled after one year . To speed up operations, stores swapped high-end La Marzocco espresso machines for automatic machines. Starbucks no longer smelled like coffee as the chain had begun brewing from flavor-locked packaging.

On their own, each change would have likely gone unnoticed, but taken as a whole they were almost deadly.

“The damage was slow and quiet, incremental, like a single loose thread that unravels a sweater inch by inch,” Schultz says in his book “Onward.”

While customers may not have been able to pinpoint the changes, they noticed a different environment at Starbucks. “They lost a little bit of their luster – a little bit of their chutzpah, a little bit of their sparkle,” Allieri said of Starbucks in the mid-2000s.

As quality slipped at Starbucks, McDonald’s and other fast-food competitors smelled opportunity, adding lattes and other specialty coffee beverages to their menus at lower prices. Customers began buying their coffee elsewhere.

“More and more people were asking themselves, ‘Why am I paying $4 for a cup of coffee?'” said Oded Netzer, an associate professor of business at Columbia.

It was a grim situation. Starbucks had built a business on its sophisticated brand. Then, as it became ubiquitous, the chain became sterile and corporate. Further, in the recession, expensive coffee was no longer an affordable luxury.

The breaking point

The chain finally reached a breaking point in 2008 .

In January of that year, Schultz returned as CEO, with the mission of “re-igniting” customers’ “emotional attachment” to Starbucks . In February, Schultz closed all 7,100 US Starbucks locations for three and a half hours to retrain baristas on how to make the perfect espresso. And in July, Starbucks announced it was closing 600 underperforming stores.

As the company’s fabled “visionary,” Schulz began trying to bring the company back to his roots, a role he took with zeal. Beans were once again ground in stores, a new type of espresso machine was installed across all locations, and stores were redesigned to “recapture the coffeehouse feel,” adding touches like local decorations and secondhand furniture .

He righted the sinking ship financially. The company’s stock has increased by 1,140% from Starbucks’ low in late 2008, and the company has opened 10,000 new locations around the world.

But few would say Starbucks fully recaptured the premium image it had crafted in the ’90s. Instead, it entered a period of appealing to both the wealthy and the working class, serving the urbane and the moms in minivans who go through its drive-thrus. Shoppers expect a Starbucks to be nearby, and they no longer wince calling a drink “grande.”

This is a big reason Starbucks is stuck in the middle now, sandwiched between chains focusing on no-frills value, like Dunkin’ and McDonald’s, and the “third wave” of high-end shops. Some are independent; others are fancier chains, like Intelligentsia and Blue Bottle.

Starbucks’ ubiquity empowered rivals at both ends. Over the past year, these problems have once again reared their heads as Starbucks’ stock stagnated. Store traffic slowed after years of growth post-2008.

Instead of being mocked for being pretentious, Starbucks now finds itself with something like the opposite problem.

The “basic” joke

The story of Starbucks’ current place in Americana can be summed up in one drink: the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

The PSL, as it’s known, sometimes derisively, is a seasonal concoction of cloves, nutmeg, and other spices synonymous with fall. It’s been on the menu since 2003, when Starbucks decided it wanted to create an autumn drink.

According to lore, the PSL was created while brainstorming ideas for a new espresso-based seasonal beverage. The innovation team sat with a pumpkin pie on one side and an espresso machine on the other, alternating shots of espresso and bites of pie in an attempt to deconstruct how best to combine the two flavors.

The drink has become an autumnal tradition. Over the past 13 years, Starbucks has sold 200 million cups of its Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s even created an entire category of PSL products, from breakfast cereals to Pumpkin Spice Peeps . It has a  Twitter account .

It also happens to be the defining drink of the “basic b—h.”

The dangers of being basic

If you are an American between the ages of 10 and 30, being basic isn’t necessarily a definable term; it’s a feeling you get about a certain kind of person, almost always female. To be a “basic b—h” is to buy into an unoriginal image of what is enjoyable and feminine, and to broadcast these uninspired tastes to the world. It’s the opposite of being edgy or cool – it’s behaving as expected, buying into a certain degree of groupthink. Wearing Uggs and leggings? Basic. Instagramming your fingers, coated in Essie nail polish, clutching a rainbow bagel at brunch with your girls? Basic. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? The most basic thing of all.

Thought Catalogue listed “liking Pumpkin Spice Lattes” as No. 2 on the list of “21 Signs You’re A Basic B*tch”  in 2012.

By fall 2014 the topic had exploded. Twitter was flooded with jokes about “basic white girls” loving PSLs. More than one group of white people released a parody rap video about Pumpkin Spice Lattes (“pumpkin spice latte rap” yields more than 2,000 results on YouTube). BuzzFeed published a think piece about PSL and class anxiety , “breaking down why we’re actually dismissive of all things pumpkin spice.”

For Starbucks, the onslaught of PSL jokes is good and bad. On one hand, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is incredibly popular – estimates suggest the chain has made a billion dollars selling the drink . On the other hand, being seen as a beacon for the basic is far from the upscale coffee-shop image that the Starbucks brand is built upon and that Schultz fought tooth and nail to win back in 2008.

“You can say tough luck, we’re going to go with the new customers because they’re the majority now,” Netzer said on Starbucks’ attempts to serve both mainstream teens and coffee snobs. “The problem with that is [the original] strategy is why Starbucks can charge $3 more for coffee than McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts.”

Schultz righted the chain after it became sterile – but he wasn’t able to regain the brand’s upscale “cool” factor.

“Something we all have to come to terms with as we get older is we’re all going to lose the it factor at some point,” Garthwaite said. It’s nearly impossible for a large corporation to maintain the “edgy, hip factor” that comes with being a small company doing something revolutionary, that Starbucks managed to capture in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

But Starbucks wants to try. For the past two years, Netzer says, the chain has realized that it was once again straying from its roots and doubled down on coffee to win back the “coffee connoisseurs” who were the brand’s base in the ’90s.

Beyond basic

The first result of that plan opened in Seattle in 2014. Called a “Roastery,” the 15,000-square-foot location combines coffee production, menu tests, and architectural whimsy. The Roastery has become a huge part of the company’s plans to roll out an upscale brand called Reserve.

“Ubiquity will create sort of a natural gravitation pull toward a commodity,” said CEO Johnson. Becoming a commodity is obviously something Starbucks wants to avoid, even as it grows. “Which is why our strategy really includes a key pillar to elevate the brand – which is why we’re building Roasteries.”

Globally, 1,000 Reserve stores will serve Roastery-style concoctions and food made in the stores. And 20% of all Starbucks locations will feature a Reserve Bar, to allow for more complex ways to prepare drinks.

Still, don’t count out the power of the Pumpkin Spice Latte-loving basics just yet. In April, as evidence grew that Starbucks was planning to open a third American Roastery in Chicago, the chain launched its most Instagrammable – and many would say most basic – beverage yet: the Unicorn Frappuccino.

The Unicorn Frappuccino is a brightly colored beverage that changes its color and flavor when stirred. Aesthetically, it’s remarkable, looking better when you photograph it yourself than in company advertising. Culinarily, it’s kind of gross – a sugar bomb that tastes like an Orange Julius married with Sour Skittles.

It was also an instant hit, flooding social media with customers’ photos of the drink, providing Starbucks with immeasurable free advertising. And nowhere was the drink more prevalent than on the “basic” hashtag on Instagram, where half of the posts are of the Unicorn Frappuccino. Scrolling through #basic, it’s as though the hashtag has been transformed into a Starbucks ad.

The everyone drinks Starbucks joke

Imagine walking into a Starbucks in 2022. The building is towering – an open space the size of a large auditorium. In one corner, there’s a bar with baristas mixing nonalcoholic coffee cocktails; in another, a roaster heating beans; in another, a full-service restaurant. Employees are clad in leather aprons and low-key hipster garb. Scruffy coffee roasters wear beard nets. The menu is made up of items that easily surpass the $10 mark – drinks that seem more fit for a classy Manhattan cocktail menu than a coffee shop.

Then imagine walking into another version of Starbucks five years down the road from today. Customers are staring at their iPhones, rushing in just as an employee greets them by name and hands them their drink. There’s no cash register, no workers taking orders, just baristas making drinks and handing off beverages to customers rushing in and out.

In fact, both of these Starbucks exist now, within just a few miles of each other in Seattle, Washington. One is the first Starbucks Roastery and the other is the first Starbucks’ test mobile-only store, which was launched earlier in April in Starbucks’ offices.

Looking at Starbucks’ history, it’s clear that the brand evolved – and will continue to evolve – out of necessity, as it is pulled in different directions.

“As our customer base has grown, sometimes our customer wants that third place experience, and sometimes they want convenience,” Johnson told Business Insider. “We’re not sacrificing one for the other, but it is a delicate balance.”

Striking a balance means drawing from all of Starbucks’ past eras – and the lessons Starbucks has learned from the jokes people tell.

The Roastery and Reserve stores are perhaps the obvious response to people mocking Starbucks. The new store formats, with their small-batch brews and siphoned coffee, are created to counter jokes about Unicorn Frappuccinos, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and the increasingly basic nature of Starbucks. Schultz, who stepped down as CEO but will remain on the board, is at the helm of the project.

With the Roasteries, Starbucks has a chance to bring back the innovative, exotic Starbucks brand of the ’90s but at a much larger scale. Schultz told Business Insider in October that the Roasteries have shown Starbucks that there is a “real opportunity” for Starbucks to create a “super-premium brand.”

“As companies face the threat of e-commerce and mobile shopping, the burden of responsibility of the brick-and-mortar retailers is to create a very immersive, dynamic experience,” he said.

But Starbucks needs to be more than super-premium. It also needs to be convenient, basic, Instagram-worthy, and more.

Can Starbucks have it all?

Johnson says that the biggest reason you don’t hear jokes about “Starbucks in Starbucks’ bathrooms” as much any more is that the company has changed what a Starbucks looks like, rolling out new store formats in recent years and with more in the works.

“Take everything from an express store on Wall Street that is very small square footage, small menu, and it’s all for convenience. Customers walk up, we serve them their food and beverage quickly,” Johnson said, listing store formats. “Then, it’s our core Starbucks stores – the third place. Starbucks stores with drive-thrus. And now we’ve got Reserve bars and Reserve stores and Roasteries.”

In essence, Schultz and Johnson have realized that as Starbucks became ubiquitous it picked up new types of customers, from snobs to basics. Wedged between fast-food chains and hip coffee shops, Starbucks’ new strategy is to create different types of stores – all with an emphasis on customer service – that match up with different types of competitors. Express stores are as fast as any fast-food chain, while Roasteries serve beverages as complex as any indie shop.

“They’re bringing back the coffee and bringing back the service,” Nezder said about the proliferation of Starbucks formats. “I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s addressing the problem they’ve had for years.”

Others aren’t as convinced that Starbucks can pull of the balancing act.

“You can’t be everything to everyone,” said Gairthwaite, who is skeptical of Starbucks’ ability to compete with smaller brands like Intelligentsia and Stumptown while continuing to meet the needs of the majority of customers. “They’ve always struggled with this idea that some people want the artistry and some people just want a drink.”

Vlogger Bethany Mota may have best captured this Starbucks moment. Her video, “Types of People at Starbucks,” which describes customers including the Secret Menu Snob, the Instagram Addict, and the Rude Customer, has racked up more 1.5 million views on YouTube. Starbucks’ customers are increasingly visiting the chain for different reasons – and Starbucks is responding by trying to tailor its stores to all these needs.

“The problem with success is you get harder, more difficult problems to solve,” Garthwaite said.

Perhaps the next Starbucks joke will be, who wants a low-fat Nitro Unicorn Pour-Over to go for $10?

 

An Ayurvedic Treatment For Cancer in The Pipeline?

After creating ripples in the country and abroad for it’s home-based and natural cures, Ayurveda may soon be eying the territory which has had doctors and scientist abroad worked up since decades- Cancer. So says, the Union Minister of State AYUSH Shripad Yesso Naik

The ancient medicinal practice of Ayurveda has taken the global circuit by storm with its cure to various skin and health ailments. And Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), is tirelessly working to revive the glory and reinstating people’s faith in the ancient practice, which according to them has the cure to the severest of ailments.
Recently, Naik hinted about the ongoing research in Auyrveda , which may bring about the cure to cancer in the recent future. This comes soon after his earlier statement on a yoga-based cure to diabetes and cancer.

shripad naik

Naik, in a public event in Panaji  disclosed , that the researchers are very close to device an ayurvedic treatment to the grievous disease, which is based on the similar lines of chemotherapy.

Naik said, that they have reached a stage where just like chemotherapy, they  can treat cancer but the treatment would be  without the side effects of chemotherapy.

Naik said, beaming in confidence that research is on along with American scientists to find a cure for cancer. On completion of the research, in the appropriate way, they will find and prepare the medicine for major diseases and a  cure for cancer will come.An Ayurvedic Treatment For Cancer in The Pipeline?

Earlier last year, the Minister had stated that Yoga-based cure for diseases such as diabetes and cancer developed by Bengaluru-based Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana was on the pipeline.

Praising the natural healing properties and treatment of Ayurveda,  Naik also said that the Ministry had set itself a target to establish an AYUSH center in every district to promote the ancient medicinal practice of India.

Exercise keeps the mind sharp in over-50s study finds

Doing moderate exercise several times a week is the best way to keep the mind sharp if you’re over 50, research suggests.

Thinking and memory skills were most improved when people exercised the heart and muscles on a regular basis, a review of 39 studies found.

This remained true in those who already showed signs of cognitive decline.

Taking up exercise at any age was worthwhile for the mind and body, the Australian researchers said.

Exercises such as T’ai Chi were recommended for people over the age of 50 who couldn’t manage other more challenging forms of exercise, the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said.

Brain boost

Physical activity has long been known to reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including type-2 diabetes and some cancers, and it is thought to play a role in warding off the brain’s natural decline as we enter middle age.

The theory is that through exercise the brain receives a greater supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients that boost its health as well as a growth hormone that helps the formation of new neurons and connections.

In this analysis of previous studies, researchers from the University of Canberra looked at the effects of at least four weeks of structured physical exercise on the brain function of adults.

]An outdoor tai chi class

In a variety of brain tests, they found evidence of aerobic exercise improving cognitive abilities, such as thinking, reading, learning and reasoning, while muscle training – for example, using weights – had a significant effect on memory and the brain’s ability to plan and organise, the so-called executive functions.

Joe Northey, study author and researcher from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at Canberra, said the findings were convincing enough to enable both types of exercise to be prescribed to improve brain health in the over-50s.

“Even if you are doing moderate exercise only once or twice a week there are still improvements in cognitive function, but the improvements were better the more exercise was done,” he said.

He said people should be able to hold a conversation while doing moderate exercise.

NHS guidelines recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week and exercise the major muscles on two or more days a week.Couple running in a park

Heavy shopping bags

Dr Justin Varney, lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said any physical activity was good for brain and body.

“Whilst every 10 minutes of exercise provides some benefit, doing 150 minutes a week cuts the chances of depression and dementia by a third, and boosts mental health at any age.

“Doing both aerobic and strengthening exercises leads to a greater variety of health benefits.”

He said cycling or walking to work could count as aerobic activity and carrying heavy shopping bags was one example of a good strength exercise.

Dr Dean Burnett, lecturer in neuroscience and psychiatry at Cardiff University, said the study gave a clearer picture of how exercise affected the brain – but there were still issues.

“It could lead to increased pressure for the 50-plus age group to exercise more in order to stay mentally healthy, which is good advice but also overlooks the fact that as we age it’s increasingly difficult to engage in physical activity, as our bodies are simply less capable of it,” he said.

“Physical exercise is one element of improved brain functioning, but not the whole story.”

As well as staying physically active, Dr David Reynolds, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said it was equally important to look after our brains by staying mentally active, eating a balanced diet, drinking only in moderation and not smoking.

In late April Dutch tulip bulb farmers chop off the flowers’ heads

As the end of April approaches, Dutch tulip farmers prepare for “topping”, when they run cutting machines through the fields across the north and west of the country, lopping off the colorful flower heads and leaving the stalks and plants to wither.

Throughout the month, the tulip fields are in full bloom and tourists flock to attractions such as the Keukenhof flower garden in The Hague to see the year’s designs and spectacular new strains.A man arranges tulips at the Dutch pavilion during preparations for the Green Week international food, agriculture and horticulture fair in Berlin, January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

To the un-initiated, the “topping” that follows may look like senseless destruction.

In fact, it’s all part of the tulip’s growing cycle, as the plant then diverts its energy to the still-living bulb underground, which will bloom again.

The reinvigorated bulbs are harvested in mid-summer and sold to growers for planting in the autumn.

This May Be the Reason Why You Have Been Unable to Reduce Belly Fat

Does your expanded waistline refuse to shrink even an inch despite following the best recommended set of exercises? Is it getting worse with time with you piling on extra pounds unnecessarily? Perhaps your low metabolism, diet choices, exercise routine or other lifestyle habits have something to do with it. Or perhaps not. Calm down! Perhaps the only thing you need to do right now is to relax. There could be various reasons for your protruding belly, some of which are not often cited, for example stress. Yes, you heard us. While increased levels of stress can result in reduced appetite initially, long-term and chronic stress may eventually make you binge on fatty foods. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as stress induced weight gain.

Stress and anxiety are becoming synonymous to today’s time. Stress does not only affect one’s peace of mind but could also play a role in promoting weight gain, especially around your mid-riff. A certain hormone called cortisol can be labelled as the culprit here.

stress

What Does Cortisol Do?

Cortisol is also called as the stress hormone

. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands. It is important for the maintenance of blood pressure as well as in boosting energy in the body. The hormone also stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for greater energy and regulates insulin release for maintaining blood sugar levels. The end result of these actions could lead to an increase in appetite.

Shilpa Arora, Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Health Practitioner, explains, “When you are tensed, the body releases cortisol as a result of which there is a rise in insulin level in the body. This results in a drop of blood sugar level and that’s why you rave high carbohydrate and sugary food.” The body releases chemicals in response to the food you eat, which might have a direct calming effect, and this is how you may end up gaining those few extra and unwanted pounds around your belly in an attempt to beat stress.

Shilpa adds, “High cortisol production can confuse the entire endocrine system and increase your appetite. Stress also leads to the over production of ghrelin – your hunger hormone.”

Why is This Belly Fat a Reason for Worry?

It has been found that stress and increased cortisol levels tend to cause fat deposition in the abdominal area rather than around the hips or other parts of the body. Consultant Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Datta shares, “There is a strong co-relation between belly fat and cardiovascular diseases. We have heard of apple and pear-shaped bodies. Those who are apple shaped have a considerable body weight around the abdominal area and are at a higher risk of developing cardio-vascular diseases.”

Dr. Datta also explains the reason behind fat deposition around the belly. “Cortisol is known as the survival hormone. The concentration of the hormone is controlled by an enzyme found mostly in the abdominal region. Hence, there is a greater storage of fat in the tissues of abdomen when you are stressed. ”

belly fat

Here are a host of remedies you can try to beat stress-induced weight:

Shilpa suggests meditation and making a window for some recreational activities. ”In our stressful lives surrounded by compulsive eating disorders, one should include daily meditation and relaxation techniques like music, reading, dancing or engage in some sports.”

Dr. Rupali Datta lists some suggestions which can come in handy to cut down on the bulge due to stress –

1. Eight hours of good quality sleep is needed daily. People might argue that it is not essential, but sleep deprivation may aggravate stress and anxiety.

2. Learn to delegate your work. You cannot take care of everything alone. Therefore, fretting about it is only going to add to your stress. So stop, breathe, relax, and plan.

3. You have to monitor your eating habits and keep eating at regular intervals of time. As the sugar levels go down, the levels of cortisol go up. You must include high fibre foods, leafy vegetables and whole grains in your diet. Whole grains have a very positive impact in maintaining satiety. Also, remember to have enough proteins. Most of our Indian meals are high on carbohydrates, which may make you lose out on the adequate protein intake.

4. Make sure to load up on vitamin C. It is known to boost the adrenal gland, which regulates the secretion of cortisol.

5. It is essential to be hydrated at all times. Have nimbu paani, chaas, nariyal paani, or just plain water, but make sure you keep yourself hydrated to prevent overeating because your body can confuse thirst with hunger.

6. Try and take out at least 30 minutes to engage in anything that de-stresses you, such as dancing, listening to music or reading. Yoga or regular exercise also helps in releasing stress.