Tag Archives: fine

Biotech firm to pay $3.5M fine to settle animal-abuse case

A leading biotech firm will pay a $3.5 million fine and cancel its research registration to settle allegations that it mistreated goats and rabbits at a California facility.

The settlement between Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also revokes the company’s license to sell, buy, trade or import animals.

The settlement required the Dallas-based company to pay the fine and cancel its research registration by May 31.

The USDA’s complaints listed violations ranging from failing to provide veterinary care to goats with wounds from coyote and snake bites or massive tumors and housing rabbits in cruel conditions, including putting them in elevated cages with open doors or in small, crowded cages.

Santa Cruz Biotechnology contested the government complaints and the agreement says the company “neither admits nor denies” the USDA’s assertions.

The company did not respond to requests for comment.

The Animal Welfare Institute, an advocacy group, praised the settlement, saying the $3.5 million fine is historic.

“Previously, the highest penalties paid to the USDA were less than $300,000, demonstrating the monumental nature of this settlement,” said Cathy Liss, president of the institute. “It should serve as a loud and clear message to all research facilities, animal dealers, exhibitors and airlines regulated under this law.”

Wildlife group: Wisconsin environmental fines down sharply

Wisconsin collected dramatically less in fines for environmental violations last year, according to data released this month.

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation obtained figures tracking forfeitures the state Justice Department has collected for infractions involving air and water pollution, farm animal waste from both small farms and factory operations and hazardous waste between 2006 and 2015.

The data shows the agency collected $306,834 last year, down 86 percent from the 10-year annual average of $2.2 million and down 78 percent from a year earlier, when the state collected almost $1.4 million.

The data shows that in 2015 the department collected no forfeitures for animal waste violations at factory farms, for hazardous waste violations or for public water violations. Air pollution penalties were down 79 percent from the 10-year average.

The DNR refers environmental cases to the Justice Department for prosecution. The group’s data didn’t show how many referrals DNR made to DOJ or how many cases DOJ may have settled without forfeitures. Federation executive director George Meyer wouldn’t give specifics on the source of the group’s data.

“The federation does not know whether the dramatic decrease in environmental penalty violations is the result of lack of inspections of regulated facilities by the Department of Natural Resources or follow-through on discovered violations by that agency or lack of vigor in prosecution … by the Department of Justice, but the general public deserves answers,” said Meyer, a former DNR secretary.

DNR spokesman Andrew Savagian said in an email that the DNR tries to resolve infractions first by educating violators. He noted the agency made 35 referrals to DOJ in 2013, 35 in 2014 and 39 in 2015.

Savagian added that the agency’s environmental enforcement positions are currently fully staffed and it has plans to hire another enforcement specialist and seven investigators to handle complex cases.

DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said in an email that the total amount of penalties don’t tell “the full story” about how the department ensures environmental violations are resolved, noting that some cases end with violators agreeing to undertake environmentally beneficial projects. Asked how many cases end short of financial penalties, Koremenos said the agency doesn’t keep a running tally.

The federation is a group of hunters, anglers, trappers and others who work to sustain hunting, fishing and shooting sports for the future.

The art of tasting artisan chocolates

Sweets for the sweet is a time-honored Valentine’s Day tradition, and no sweet is more beloved than chocolate. And when you’re buying for Feb. 14, there’s all the more incentive to buy the best.

So remember to take time and savor the chocolates you receive. The very best of the breed are more than mere commodity.

With quality chocolates, there’s as much an art to tasting as there is to wine. The more you know before popping that first truffle into your mouth, the more fully you will enjoy the experience, according to Madison chocolatier Gail Ambrosius.

“You need to use all your senses in order to experience the flavors fully,” says Ambrosius, owner of Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier on Madison’s east side. “You should breathe in the aroma, after visually noticing the chocolate’s color and sheen. The chocolate should have a distinct snap when you bite into it and then (you should) feel the silky smooth texture in your mouth.”

Megan Hile, owner of Madison Chocolate Co., one of the city’s newest producers, agrees. Moreover, she says, savor slowly and let the flavors come to you.

“Take a piece of chocolate in your mouth, chew it to start the melting process and then let the flavor open up,” says Hile, who currently runs her operation solely online. “Chocolate offers flavors that will hit you up front, in the middle and then on the finish.”

Great chocolate is defined by its origin point. Both Ambrosius and Hile have taken time to visit cacao growers and learn about what goes into producing the right beans to create great chocolate. The process is key, Hile says.

“Great chocolate to me means there is care taken from beginning to end — from the cacao plantation, to fermentation, to processing, to the chocolatier’s kitchen,” Hile says. “You can always find good chocolate, but great chocolate is made in small batches, by hand, using stellar ingredients by people who are passionate about what they do.”

Ambrosius agrees: “The chocolatier takes the chocolate and uses her alchemy to turn it into wonderful truffles, bonbons or other confections. I would say it is a combination of farmer, chocolate-maker and chocolatier.”

Both chocolatiers favor Ecuador as the source of their cacao beans, although they say countries in Central America also excel. Like anything else, some types of cacao are rarer and more expensive than others, Ambrosius says.

“Porcelana is said to be the rarest cacao, most expensive and most sought after,” Ambrosius says. “It is native to Venezuela, but there is rumored to be some in a remote area of Peru as well. It is light in color and very aromatic in flavor. To me it almost melts away like cotton candy in my mouth.”

While traveling in Peru, Ambrosius also learned of an heirloom cacao variety called cacao chuncho, named for an ethnic group of Amazonians in Peru at the time of the Spanish Conquest. “Very small beans, but the farmers were very proud of this chocolate,” she added.

Different Madison area chocolatiers favor different styles, but all of them produce the classic truffle favored with everything from coconut to chili powder to cognac. No matter the approach, all great chocolate has one thing in common.

“Great chocolate is made with love,” Hile says. “I believe you can taste the difference.”

Get Your Truffle On

The Madison area is home to five chocolatiers, men and women who make chocolate as an art form. Here is a list of where to shop for your Valentine’s Day treats.

Candinas Chocolatier, 11 W. Main St., Madison, and 2535 Old PB, Verona, WI. 608-845-1545 or candinas.com.

Chocolatier Markus Candinas learned his trade during a three-year apprenticeship program in Switzerland and the result has been more than 20 years of elegant chocolate. Whether sampling the espresso or elderflower truffle, you will find that Candinas’ workmanship speaks for itself. Shop the boutique in downtown Madison or the retail shop that fronts the factory in rural Verona. Each has its charms and plenty of chocolate to taste.

DB Infusion Chocolates, 550 N. Midvale Blvd. (in the Hilldale Shopping Center), Madison. 608-233-1600 or infusionchocolates.com.

A staff of trained chocolatiers crafts a vast array of truffles that are as attractive in appearance as they are scrumptious in flavor. This time of year, the Aphrodisiac for Her (65 percent Venezuelan dark chocolate infused with strawberry, passion fruit and tropical Tasmanian leatherwood honey) and the Aphrodisiac for Him (Patron silver tequila, lime and a blend of guajillo and chipotle peppers in a milk chocolate center) are must-haves for your truffle basket. Caribbean Fire (70 percent mostly dark Ecuadoran chocolate around a fiery center of ancho and chipotle peppers, nutmeg, allspice and jerk seasoning) will help spark romantic fires.

Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier, 2086 Atwood Ave., Madison. 608-249-3500 or gailambrosius.com.

Although not Madison’s oldest maker of handmade chocolates, Ambrosius has one of the area’s highest profiles, especially when it comes to dark chocolate harvested from unique areas around the globe. A former cartographer for the state who trained as a chocolatier in Paris after being laid off, Ambrosius manages to blend sweets and spices in unique ways that intrigue the palate and serve as a gustatory geography lesson to the world’s best cacao.

Madison Chocolate Co., online only at madisonchocolate.com.

Launched in fall 2012, Madison Chocolate Co. uses facilities at Food Enterprise & Economic Development Kitchens, a contract commercial kitchen and food industry incubator located on Madison’s north side, to produce chocolate truffles. A former Spanish teacher, Megan Hile began her food education process with Ecole Chocolat coursework and a “bean to bar” internship in Mindo, Ecuador. She markets her truffles using a consumer-supported agriculture model, which enables customers to buy shares in the company and receive a monthly shipment of chocolate in return.

Maurie’s Fine Chocolates, 1637 Monroe St., Madison. 608-255-9092 or mauriesfinechocolates.com.

Established in 1993, chocolatier Cher Mandel Diamond named her shop for her late father, who had been making fine chocolate truffles by hand since 1941. Maurie’s recipes form the core of the chocolate truffles Diamond produces. The second-generation chocolatier draws on fine, internationally harvested cacao, surrounding a dark chocolate ganache infused with natural fruits, teas and spices and a thin chocolate layer. Chocolates like the Amour, a raspberry-infused dark chocolate truffle; the Single Barrel, dark chocolate infused with bourbon; or the Oporto, dark chocolate infused with port wine, should be part of the Valentine’s Day celebration.

Maine Ethics Commission imposes record fine against anti-gay National Organization for Marriage

The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices on May 28 voted unanimously to impose record civil penalties against the National Organization for Marriage. The fines total $50,250.

The commission also directed NOM — which has been at the forefront of campaigns to block same-sex marriage legislation and to defend anti-gay bans — to file disclosure reports with the commission.

The vote came after a four-year investigation exposed “a significant violation of law” by the national anti-LGBT organization. The penalties are reportedly the largest ever imposed for a campaign finance violation in Maine history.

The bipartisan five-member commission approved a staff report issued last week that concluded that NOM intentionally violated Maine law by failing to register or report its activities despite playing a central role in co-managing and funding a $3 million marriage referendum campaign in 2009.

Commission Chair Walter McKee said, “We thought where there was smoke there was fire. There was.” He told NOM that to accept its explanation for its fundraising activities would be to “accept a mockery of Maine’s election laws.”

Over the past four years, following a complaint by Fred Karger, the commission conducted the most detailed investigation of NOM’s activities to date.

The investigation included deposing NOM’s head Brian Brown and subpoenaing documents, both of which were critical to uncovering the grand scheme to violate state disclosure requirements. The investigation was significantly delayed by a series of lawsuits initiated by NOM intended to stonewall the investigation.

NOM appealed unsuccessfully all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in its effort to evade Maine’s public disclosure law. The final report found that NOM raised more than $2 million from donors to fund its Maine marriage campaign but deliberately failed to disclose these donors in accordance with state law. The report also concluded that Brown and others repeatedly deceived the commission during the course of its investigation.

“The National Organization for Marriage has for seven years engaged in a secret, coordinated scheme funded by a few wealthy anonymous donors intended solely to demean LGBT Americans,” said HRC president Chad Griffin in a news release. “Today, Maine has lifted the veil on NOM’s illegal political activities and exposed its efforts to funnel secret money into its radical national campaign against equality. We commend Maine’s regulators for requiring NOM to play by the same disclosure rules that we and many other groups have abided by for years in Maine and across the country.”   

Maine voters approved marriage equality in a second referendum in 2012.

Chicago vs. NYC foodie smackdown: Who eats better?

The James Beard Foundation recently announced that its awards ceremony honoring the best chefs and restaurants is moving to Chicago after 24 years in New York City.

It’s more proof that Chicago is home to one of the country’s hottest restaurant scenes.

But who’s got the better eats?

Here’s a foodie smackdown between the Windy City and the Big Apple.

• MUST-GET (but you probably won’t) RESERVATION

Chicago: Grant Achatz’s Next

New York: David Chang’s Momofuku Ko


Chicago: Wonut (doughnut meets waffle) by Waffles Cafe

New York: Cronut (croissant meets doughnut) by Dominique Ansel Bakery


Chicago: Grant Achatz

New York: Wylie Dufresne


Chicago: Deep-dish

New York: Thin crust.


Chicago: Chicago French Market

New York: Eataly


Chicago: Stephanie Izard, Girl and the Goat

New York: April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig


Chicago: A walk through the garden — mustard, onions, pickle relish, dill pickle spear, tomatoes, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. And NEVER ketchup.

New York: Nathan’s in Coney Island, with mustard on a plain white bun.


Chicago: Paul Kahan’s The Publican

New York: Dan Barber’s Blue Hill


Chicago: Grant Achatz’ Aviary

New York: Wallflower


Chicago: Restaurant Row on Randolph Street in West Loop

New York: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

• TOP CHEF AWARDS (from the Beards, of course)

Chicago: Rick Bayless (1995), Charlie Trotter (1999), Grant Achatz (2008) and Paul Kahan (shared with New York’s David Chang in 2013)

New York: Larry Forgione (1993), Daniel Boulud (1994),  Jean-George Vongerichten (1998), David Bouley (2000), Lidia Mattichio Bastianich (2002), Eric Ripert (2003), Mario Batali (2005), Alfred Portale (2006), Dan Barber (2009), Tom Colicchio (2010), Daniel Humm (2012), David Chang (shared with Chicago’s Paul Kahan in 2013)

• TOP RESTAURANT AWARDS (also from the Beards)

Chicago: Charlie Trotter’s (2000), Frontera Grill (2007)

New York: Bouley (1991), Le Cirque (1995), Union Square Cafe (1997), Le Bernardin (1998), The Four Seasons (1999), Gotham Bar & Grill (2002), Chanterelle (2004), Gramercy Tavern (2008), Jean-Georges (2009), Daniel (2010), Eleven Madison Park (2011), Blue Hill (2013)

How Russia enforces its anti-LGBT law

With the Sochi Winter Olympics beginning today, many will be watching to see whether Russia will enforce its law on gay “propaganda” if athletes, fans or activists wave rainbow flags or speak out in protest.

The law prohibits vaguely defined propaganda supporting non-traditional sexual relations to minors. It does not make clear what constitutes disseminating the information to minors.

The message on enforcement so far has been confusing.

The International Olympic Committee has reminded athletes that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites.” Athletes will be free to express their opinions at news conferences, however, according to IOC President Thomas Bach.

Sochi organizers initially took issue with Bach, but then backed off.

President Vladimir Putin, who has equated homosexuality with pedophilia, has assured gays that they will be welcome in Sochi but only if they “leave the kids alone.” Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister overseeing the games, repeated that message Thursday. Putin has

The Russian government initially banned all protests during the games. Following an international outcry, it set up a designated protest zone far from any of the Olympic venues.

Across the rest of the country, however, Russian judges have been implementing the law and handing out fines. Here’s a look at who has been targeted since the law took effect in July:


In December, Nikolai Alexeyev, Russia’s leading gay activist, and Yaroslav Yevtushenko traveled to the far northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, where they picketed outside a children’s library bearing banners that read, “Gays aren’t made, they’re born!” The two were fined 4,000 rubles ($115) and their appeal denied.

Activist Dmitry Isakov protested the law in his hometown of Kazan, 720 kilometers (450 miles) east of Moscow. Months later, he was called to court after a teenager in Arkhangelsk had seen photos of his protest online and filed a complaint. Isakov was fined 4,000 rubles in January and his appeal is still pending.


Newspaper editor Alexander Suturin was summoned to court after he published an interview with an openly gay schoolteacher in his weekly paper in Khabarovsk, a city on the Amur River that borders China. Fines are much higher for those accused of spreading propaganda with the help of media or the Internet, so Suturin was fined 50,000 rubles ($1,400) by a Khabarovsk court last week. In the interview, the teacher – who was told his school contract would not be renewed after he came out publicly as gay – defended LGBT rights.


When journalist Yelena Klimova posted an enraged column about the propaganda law to a news website, she got a reaction she didn’t expect: An underage lesbian from provincial Russia reached out to thank her for the column, saying it had helped keep her from committing suicide. Klimova kept up the correspondence with the girl and set up Children-404, an online group hosted by Russia’s top social networking website, which allows gay and lesbian teens to post supportive letters to each other.

Now Klimova is facing trial this month in her Urals hometown of Nizhny Tagil, after several complaints were filed by a Russian lawmaker famous for championing anti-gay legislation.

“I didn’t expect that it would come into anyone’s head to label letters sent from minors as propaganda among minors – it’s absurd!” she wrote to The Associated Press.


Shortly after a 14-year-old girl in the small town of Dyatkova, 300 kilometers (200 miles) from Moscow, held a one-person picket to protest the gay propaganda law, the phones at her home and school started ringing. An anti-gay activist from St. Petersburg, Timur Isayev, called the girl’s principal and later her mother, demanding that she be homeschooled so she could not spread her ideas to other children.

Maria, who asked that her last name not be used in this article, was disciplined by a government-run commission for the protection of children’s rights, which ordered her to make weekly visits and encouraged her to see a psychiatrist.

While under normal circumstances she can’t be held legally responsible until age 16, she says the commission threatened to take her to court under the propaganda law if she continued to express her views in public. This week, after her case became a national media sensation, Maria said the commission director quietly promised her that the complaint against her would be dropped.

“But I’m afraid that suddenly I’ll get a call and they’ll say it was a mistake,” she told the AP by phone. “And then everything will start all over again.”


Gay pride parades have been de facto banned for many years in Russia, but since last year city authorities often cite the propaganda law as a reason to forbid any demonstrations. When small groups of demonstrators try to defy the bans, police usually detain them immediately but rarely hold them for long or press charges.


The cases that end up in court are often the result of complaints from anti-gay activists who lobby for the propaganda ban to be more rigorously enforced.

Isakov, the gay activist from Kazan, was fined after Arkhangelsk teenager Erik Fedoseyev wrote to Kazan authorities. According to Isakov, Fedoseyev’s complaint said he had been encouraged to act by his father, whose wife had left him for another woman.

The activist who complained about Maria told the AP that he didn’t regret intervening in the life of a 14-year-old girl he had never met.

“The girl is sick and she needs to be suspended from school,” Isayev said by phone.

Isayev said he’s contacted the relatives and school principals of more than a dozen openly gay teens like Maria, but that hers was the only case that went public.

“If we don’t do it (enforce the law), things will be bad for this country,” he said.

NBA fines Knicks star for anti-gay slur

The National Basketball Association has fined New York Knicks player Amar’e Stoudemire $50,000 for tweeting an anti-gay slur to a fan.

On June 24, the sports blog Deadspin reported that a fan tweeted to Amar’e that he needed to “come back a lot stronger and quicker to make up for this past season” and called him a “deadasss.”

Stoudemire replied, “F*ck you. I don’t have to do any thing f*g.”

Later, Stoudemire tweeted an apology to the fine, writing, “I apologize for what I said earlier. I just got off the plane and had time to think about it. Sorry bro!! No excuses. Won’t happen again.”

The fan, without an apparent apology for calling Stoudemire a foul name, tweeted back to ask for tickets to a game: “@Amareisreal sooo after all this that happened can I get a follow back or tickets to a game lol or is that pushing it?”

The NBA announced June 26 that it fined Stoudemire for his use of the anti-gay slur. The amount is the same as the fine levied against Joakim Noah for using the slur during a game in 2011.

The NBA said the fine was for “using offensive and derogatory language.”

To the public, Stoudemire apologized, saying, “I am a huge supporter of civil rights for all people. I am disappointed in myself for my statement to a fan. I should have known better and there is no excuse.”

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said the fine and Stoudemire’s apology show the league is serious about the issue.

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European Court: Sweden can fine for anti-gay leaflets

The European Court of Human Rights has upheld Sweden’s fines levied against four people who circulated anti-gay leaflets in high schools.

The EC ruling stems from a December 2004 incident.

Court records state that National Youth members Tor Fredrik Vejdeland, Mattias Harlin, Bjorn Tang and Niklas Lundstrom, who were in their 20s and teens at the time, distributed leaflets declaring homosexuality is a “deviant sexual proclivity” with a “morally destructive effect on the substance of society.”

The leaflets also blamed gays for HIV/AIDS and said a “homosexual lobby” was downplaying pedophilia.

The foursome dropped the leaflets in lockers at a secondary school in Soderhamn.

A case was brought against the young people and, in 2006, Sweden’s highest court convicted them of agitation against a national group – gays.

Three of the defendants received suspended sentences and a fourth received probation.

The court also imposed fines – as low as $260 and as high as $2,600.

An appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, filed in January 2007, claimed the “free expression” right to distribute the leaflets.

But the EC, in a chamber judgment, sided with the Swedish court in Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden.

The court “found that these statements had constituted serious and prejudicial allegations, even if they had not been a direct call to hateful acts.”

Also, the court stressed that discrimination based on sexual orientation is as serious as discrimination based on “race, origin or colour.”

In a press statement, the EC court said, “While acknowledging the applicants’ right to express their ideas, the Supreme Court had found that the leaflets’ statements had been unnecessarily offensive. It had further emphasised that the applicants had imposed the leaflets on the pupils by leaving them on or in their lockers. The court noted that the pupils had been at an impressionable and sensitive age and that the distribution of the leaflets had taken place at a school which none of the applicants attended and to which they did not have free access.”

The EC, in conjunction with its opinion, also released a fact sheet on hate speech.

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