The Polish government’s decision to allow logging in one of Europe’s last remaining primeval forests has led to a bitter fight between Warsaw and the European Union.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/20/538251468/logging-opens-dispute-between-the-eu-and-poland?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

My memories of eating khichuri go back to the monsoon seasons of my childhood, when billowy thunder clouds rolled in and soaked us and the parched earth with relentless rains. The monsoons are beloved across India – they are a much-awaited reprieve from several months of unbearable heat. But it can get chilly and damp sometimes – the kind of weather when you crave something warm and filling, like khichuri.

To make this flavorful, mushy, one-pot dish, my mother would dry roast moong dal (yellow split mung beans), then throw it in a pressure cooker, with some rice, a couple of veggies and some spices. Lo and behold, 15-20 minutes later, we had hot, steaming khichuri. Ma would serve it with a dollop of ghee (clarified butter) on top, and some spicy mango pickle and sweet potato fries (my favorite!) on the side. Sometimes, my father would make deem bhaja (a simple omelet with onions and green chilies) to go with the meal. And occasionally, if we were lucky, there would be a hot, crispy piece of fried fish.

Jump to the recipe

I am originally from the state of West Bengal in eastern India, where khichuri is a staple during the monsoons. My friends from Bangladesh (just across the border from my home state), who speak the same language (Bengali), tell me they, too, associate this beloved dish with the monsoons.

But across South Asia, khichri (or khichdi), as it’s more commonly known, is a beloved comfort food for all seasons. It is “pretty close to [being] a universal dish” on the subcontinent, says Colleen Taylor Sen, author of several books on Indian food culture and history.

That became obvious to me recently when I asked people on my Facebook page to share their khichri story. I got a flood of responses.

“It’s a regular on my menu, usually [at] dinner time,” wrote Anjana Gupta, a childhood friend who lives in the southern city of Mysore, where we grew up. She makes a gingery khichri with moong dal and rice, and she likes eating it with yogurt and pickles.

A simpler form of the dish is a favorite in the western state of Gujarat, especially among the elderly, wrote Ananya Bhattacharya, an Indian journalist currently based in Washington, D.C. Called sukhpawani, which literally means something that brings comfort and pleasure, the dish she described is made by boiling together rice, split mung bean, turmeric and salt till the consistency is porridge-like. Bhattacharya’s grandfather ate this dish every day for dinner. “He ate this with a lot of ghee,” she said. “He’d also eat this with milk and bhurra (very fine sugar).”

In northern India, a bland version of khichri – no veggies, no fragrant spices – is comfort food for many. “In my family, it is associated with sickness or upset stomach or when you just want to eat something light,” my friend Niraj Kumar wrote from New York. Down south in the state of Karnataka, a tangy, spicier version called bisi bele bath (which translates to hot lentil rice) is a popular dish, even at parties and celebrations. And in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, a rice and lentil dish called nombu kanji is a staple during Ramadan.

“There’s an incredible variety of khichri,” says Sen, who owns scores of regional Indian cook books. “And almost all of them have recipes for khichri,” she says.

The different versions vary in consistency – some are dry, while others are watery or porridge-like, she says. There are savory and sweet khichris. While the vegetarian versions are more common, there are khichris with meat, too. For example, a dish called khichra has five different kinds of lentils, rice and lamb, says Sen.

Most khichris, however, have two common ingredients – rice and lentils. “Rice and lentils have been a part of Indian cuisine since time immemorial,” says Sen. Archaeological records suggest people on the subcontinent were eating rice and legumes (chick pea, peas, pigeon peas and red lentils) as far back as 1200 B.C., she says.

The Indian philosopher and statesman Chanukya (also called Kautilya), from 300 B.C., wrote that the balanced meal for a gentleman should consist of one prastha (about 1.4 pounds) of rice, quarter prastha of lentils, 1/62 prastha of salt, and 1/16 prastha of ghee or oil. “That’s kind of a khichri, isn’t it?” says Sen.

In 14th century A.D., the renowned Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta wrote about people in South Asia – especially the poor – eating khichri made with rice, mung bean and butter.

The power of khichri is its adaptability to different tastes and needs. “It’s probably the most adaptable dish [on the subcontinent],” says Sen. “It can be a very simple dish that poor people eat … or it can be very elaborate.” Elaborate enough to be fit for kings, or in this case, emperors.

A recipe from the court of Akbar, the 16th century Mughal emperor, calls for equal parts of lentils, rice and ghee, says Sen. “Very rich!”

A sweet khichri recipe she found in a book on the famously elaborate cuisine from the kingdom of Awadh, in northern India, included sugar, khoya (dry, thickened milk), cardamom, cinnamon, clove and saffron – one of the most expensive spices.

Like all good ideas, khichri, too, seems to have spread to other parts of the world. The British liked it so much that they took it back home and created their own version – kedgeree, the popular breakfast dish made with rice, boiled egg and haddock. “The Indian khichri becomes the Anglo-Indian kedgeree … in the 17th century,” says Clifford Wright, an American food writer and author of several cookbooks. (Lentils were omitted as the British were known to dislike them.) “Then it jumps across the Atlantic to New England, where it’s made with rice, curry powder, and fresh cod,” he says.

Khichri is also thought to be the ancestor of Egypt’s national dish, koshary, which is made with rice, lentils and macaroni. “There’s no doubt that the Egyptian koshary‘s ancestor is in fact the Indian khichri,” says Wright. The name and the ingredients are similar, he says. And khichri “is similar to mujaddara (another Middle Eastern comfort dish with rice and lentils), which can be traced back to the 10th century.” Although it’s likely that koshary got its macaroni much later, from the Italians, he adds.

Until I began researching this piece, my world of khichri had been small, with only three variations – my mother’s khichuri, another version of it called bhog-er khichuri that is served at religious festivals in my home state, and my favorite, bisi bele baath, from southern India.

Little did I know that a dish so simple had such a rich history, with its journey beginning far back in time and going on to traverse distant parts of the globe. This story tells me of a past that was more globalized than we realize. And it leaves me hungry for a whole new world of khichris.

A Taste Of ‘Khichuri’

Almost all the Bengali dishes I cook these days are dishes my mother taught me over the phone after I moved to the United States. She was an exquisite cook. But I never had the chance to ask her for her khichuri recipe. Ma passed away before I decided to try making this beloved monsoon dish. So the recipe below is one I cobbled together and improvised after poring over recipes from friends, food blogs and cooking shows on YouTube.

Ingredients:

½ cup white rice (I use Basmati. But any other non-sticky white rice or even brown rice should work.)

½ cup moong dal (split yellow mung bean)

Half of a small cauliflower, cut into about 10 florets (not so small that they will melt)

2 or 3 small potatoes, peeled and cut in half, or 1 medium potato cut into 4-6 pieces. (Although potatoes are traditionally used, I rarely use them.)

1 big carrot cut into inch-long pieces or 6-8 baby carrots, each sliced lengthwise. (Traditionalists may disapprove, but I like adding carrots to my khichuri. They make it colorful and healthier.)

1/3 cup of frozen peas

1 bay leaf

2 green cardamom

2-3 cloves

1 thin sticks of cinnamon

1 or 2 dry red chili (I often use green chili instead)

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon grated ginger

Ghee (clarified butter)

Turmeric and salt as needed

Dry roast the moong dal on medium flame till lentil starts to brown and you can smell its nutty aroma. Stop when about half the lentil seeds have become light brown in color, then set aside in a bowl with 2 cups of warm water in it.

Into a pan add a tablespoon of ghee (use vegetable oil if you don’t have ghee) and heat on high or medium till the ghee looks hot.

Throw in the bay leaf. As it starts to brown, lower the flame to medium and add the cardamom pods, clove and cinnamon. Stir with a spoon. Then add the cumin seeds and the chilies. Once the cumin seeds start to sputter, throw in the grated ginger, and stir.

Now add the potato, carrots and cauliflower. Sprinkle some turmeric till veggies turn light yellow. Stir fry for a few minutes.

At this stage, add the lentil with the water and salt to taste. Cover the pot and cook till water starts to boil.

Cook for 4 more minutes so that the lentil, which takes longer to cook, starts to soften.

At this point, you can transfer everything to a pressure cooker, add the frozen peas, rice and one more cup of water and cook it using the rice setting. (If you’re using a stove top pressure cooker, wait for two whistles before you switch off of the stove.)

Or once the lentils start to soften, add the rice and two more cups of water and cook with a lid on medium or low with occasional stirring to make sure rice and lentil don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Frozen peas will cook quickly, so I add them 5-10 minutes after I’ve added the rice. Add more water along the way if it starts to look too dry.

Consistency should be like that of a thick porridge, although some people like it drier.

Cook till rice, lentils and vegetables look cooked, but not too mushy. Serve with a teaspoon of ghee on top, mango or lime pickle on the side.

This goes very well with papad or papadum, which are flat, round, tortilla shaped crispy snacks that are usually deep fried or roasted over the fire.

Other foods that go well with khichuri: Fried eggplant or fried fish.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/07/20/527945413/khichuri-an-ancient-indian-comfort-dish-with-a-global-influence?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Researchers find that dementia patients who engage in activities such as gathering photographs and talking about family see improvements in their quality of life and are less agitated.

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Researchers find that dementia patients who engage in activities such as gathering photographs and talking about family see improvements in their quality of life and are less agitated.

Owen Franken/Getty Images

In nursing homes and residential facilities around the world, health care workers are increasingly asking dementia patients questions: What are your interests? How do you want to address us? What should we do to celebrate the life of a friend who has passed away?

The questions are part of an approach to care aimed at giving people with memory loss and other cognitive problems a greater sense of control and independence. At its core is the idea that an individual with dementia should be treated as a whole person and not “just” a patient.

Scientists sometimes call this approach an ecopsychosocial intervention. The goal is to create environments that better meet patients’ psychological and emotional needs through strategies other than medication.

At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference this week in London, researchers from the U.S., the U.K. and Israel presented data from four trials demonstrating that such interventions significantly improve residents’ mood and quality of life. The interventions can also reduce their use of antipsychotic drugs and improve their ability to care for themselves.

Taken together, these studies and others suggest that relatively simple and potentially cost-effective interventions can yield significant benefits for people with dementia, even those in residential facilities in the later stages of disease.

As the population continues to age, and the number of people with dementia continues to rise, these interventions are likely to increase in importance as well.

In the U.K., 70 percent of people in care facilities are estimated to have dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.

“An awful lot of people with dementia are living in care homes,” says Clive Ballard, executive dean of the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K., who presented one of the studies. “The quality of care is really inconsistent.”

While nursing and residential facilities are likely adept at things like preventing pressure ulcers, they are less skilled at responding to residents’ social and emotional needs, he says. “If you’re actually trying to give people the best lives you can give them, that’s a really important aspect,” says Dr. Ballard.

In what is thought to be the biggest randomized trial to date of this approach in care facilities, Dr. Ballard and his team evaluated some 800 residents at 69 care homes across the U.K.

As part of the study, a “care champion” from each facility took part in four days of training and then went back to coach others. The goal was for every resident to get at least one hour a week of social interaction with a health care worker.

The staff would ask residents what activities they liked doing and then work to find something that would be appropriate for their skill level. Residents might gather photographs and talk about family, or spend time gardening or talking about gardening, depending on their ability.

The staff were trained to use prompts and cues, so that the conversations could flow more naturally, says Dr. Ballard.

The researchers carried out the intervention for nine months and then followed up with the residents for nine months. They found that participants reported a significant improvement in their quality of life. The intervention also reduced their agitation as effectively as antipsychotic drugs.

“It’s really about helping people with their own goals,” says Dr. Ballard, whose group published a smaller trial last year in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The new results presented Sunday are being reviewed for publication.

Ballard’s team has partnered with two British non-profit organizations to train care staff in the southwest of the country. They hope to roll the approach out to 1,000 care facilities soon, he says.

Another person-centered, ecopsychosocial approach is based on the concept used in Montessori schools for young children: fostering independence by assessing and incorporating each person’s stage of development.

“We look at dementia as a form of disability rather than as a disease,” says Cameron Camp, director of research and development at the Center for Applied Research in Dementia in Solon, Ohio. “When you focus on dementia as a disease, then you’re focusing on deficits. Our approach is — what can we do to help these people?”

The approach makes use of individualized plans to assist patients. For some residents, it may mean giving them written schedules and teaching them to check off activities they’ve completed, so they can see where they are during the day. Other residents may be confused about the date when the see a monthly calendar but can understand a single-day calendar. Knowing the correct date helps them feel more oriented and improves self-confidence, says Dr. Camp.

In a small study published last year in the journal Advances in Aging Research, Dr. Camp’s group found that participants of such a program showed improvement in some activities of daily living such as being able to feed themselves. They also decreased their use of antipsychotics, antidepressants and sleeping pills.

“When people are engaged and awake during the day, they sleep at night,” says Dr. Camp.

Addressing loneliness and boredom are the two most important needs for many elderly in these settings, according to Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, a professor in the department of health promotion at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

In a pilot study of 69 residents in six dementia nursing home units, she and her team identified some of the most challenging residents and found those who participated in group activities saw an improvement in mood compared to people in control conditions. Many of their disruptive behaviors disappeared as well, she reported during her conference presentation.

When implementing the experimental program, she had to convince staff to give it a try, telling them that it didn’t matter if the program worked or not.

Residents quickly responded to the program, especially the physical activities. In one, they had to catch and pass a ball. They had no confidence initially, recalls Dr. Cohen-Mansfield, but that changed as they realized they could do it. The group session, which was supposed to run for half an hour, went on for 90 minutes.

“Engagement decreases behavioral problems,” says Dr. Cohen-Mansfield. “The most potent stimuli is social engagement.”

Shirley Wang is a writer based in London. She can be found on Twitter @ShirleyWang.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/19/537907127/for-dementia-patients-engagement-can-improve-mood-and-quality-of-life?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, announces he is ending his 2012 campaign for president in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The White House announced Tuesday night that Huntsman is President Trump’s choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

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Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, announces he is ending his 2012 campaign for president in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The White House announced Tuesday night that Huntsman is President Trump’s choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Charles Dharapak/AP

The White House announced Tuesday night that President Trump intends to nominate former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah to be U.S. ambassador to Russia.

If confirmed, Huntsman would take over a high-profile post amid ongoing probes into Russian meddling in the presidential election and potential ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

The White House made the announcement after it confirmed that Trump and Russian President Putin held a separate, private conversation at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, that had not been previously disclosed.

Huntsman has served as an ambassador before. Under President Obama, he was U.S. ambassador to China, and under President George H.W. Bush, he was ambassador to Singapore. Huntsman also ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Tuesday night’s announcement ends months of delay in formalizing the appointment amid deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Russia.

The Washington Post reports:

“The White House confirmed in March that it would name Huntsman to the Russia post. But delayed formally naming him and sending the nomination to the Senate for confirmation as the United States waited for the Kremlin to approve his selection.

“The Kremlin approved Huntsman’s appointment Monday night about the same time that the United States approved Russian politician Anatoly Antonov to serve as Russia’s ambassador in Washington, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly about pending appointments. Ambassadors must be approved by the governments of the countries that will host them.”

The former governor, a Mormon, had a rocky relationship with Trump during last year’s presidential campaign.

The Associated Press reports:

“Huntsman was slow to endorse any candidate for the Republican nomination though he did back Trump once he became the presumptive nominee. But Huntsman then called for Trump to drop out after the October release of a 2005 video in which Trump was captured on a hot microphone making lewd comments about women.

“Huntsman said then that the “campaign cycle has been nothing but a race to the bottom” and called for Trump’s running mate, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, to top the GOP ticket.

“Trump also went after Huntsman during his tenure as ambassador to Beijing. In a series of tweets in 2011 and 2012, the celebrity businessman called Huntsman a “lightweight” and “weak” and claimed that China “did a major number on us” during his tenure.”

Huntsman and Trump resolved their differences during the Trump administration’s transition.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/19/538035020/trump-picks-jon-huntsman-to-be-u-s-ambassador-to-russia?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

David Greene talks to former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and President Trump’s relationship with Russian President Putin.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/19/538054538/u-s-needs-a-political-strategy-in-afghanistan-flournoy-says?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

When 2 GOP senators said they would vote no on a bill to replace Obamacare, it effectively killed the bill. U.S. and Russian diplomats are discussing 2 Russian compounds that U.S. authorities seized.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/18/537844678/morning-news-brief-health-care-bill-is-dead-russian-compound-discussions?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

A Microsoft font, Calibri, may be key to bringing down Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It’s at the center of a corruption scandal that’s engulfing Sharif and his family.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/18/537844727/how-a-microsoft-font-could-take-down-a-prime-minister-caught-up-in-a-scandal?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

The Obama administration shuttered the two Russian luxury estates in retaliation for the country’s interference in the U.S. presidential elections. Russia says the seizure was criminal.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/18/537844734/russia-and-u-s-negotiate-russian-compounds-seized-by-u-s-authorities?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

The U.S. and NATO are staging their largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War, and they’re doing it in countries of 3 former members of the Warsaw Pact: Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/17/537645908/u-s-nato-troops-stage-military-exercises?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Venezuela’s opposition held an unauthorized plebiscite on Sunday. More than 7 million Venezuelans cast symbolic votes rejecting the president’s plan to overhaul the country’s constitution.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/17/537645936/millions-of-venezuelans-reject-presidents-plan-to-retool-the-constitution?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world