NEW YORK (AP) — A nonprofit founded to combat obesity says the $1.5 million it received from Coke has no influence on its work.
But emails obtained by The Associated Press show the world’s largest beverage maker was instrumental in shaping the Global Energy Balance Network, which is led by a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Coke helped pick the group’s leaders, edited its mission statement and suggested articles and videos for its website.
In an email last November, the group’s president tells a top Coke executive: “I want to help your company avoid the image of being a problem in peoples’ lives and back to being a company that brings important and fun things to them.”
Coke executives had similarly high hopes. A proposal circulated via email at the company laid out a vision for a group that would “quickly establish itself as the place the media goes to for comment on any obesity issue.” It said the group would use social media and run a political-style campaign to counter the “shrill rhetoric” of “public health extremists” who want to tax or limit foods they deem unhealthy.
When contacted by the AP about the emails, Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent said in a statement that “it has become clear to us that there was not a sufficient level of transparency with regard to the company’s involvement with the Global Energy Balance Network.”
“Clearly, we have more work to do to reflect the values of this great company in all that we do,” Kent said.
The Atlanta-based company told the AP it has accepted the retirement of its chief health and science officer, Rhona Applebaum, who initially managed the relationship with the group. It said it will not fill the position as it overhauls how it goes about its health efforts. It also said it has stopped working with the Global Energy Balance Network.
It’s just the latest example of Coke working with outside experts to promote messages that benefit the company.
Coke has long maintained that the academics and other experts it works with espouse their own views. But the collaborations can be fraught and blur the lines between advertisements and genuine advice. In February, several health and fitness experts paid by the company wrote online posts with tips on healthy habits. Each suggested a mini-soda as a snack idea.
One dietitian wrote five such posts in less than a year.
The Global Energy Balance Network came under fire in August after The New York Times reported it was funded by Coke. On Nov. 6, the University of Colorado School of Medicine said it was returning $1 million from the company because of the distraction it was creating. The University of South Carolina said it plans to keep $500,000 it received from Coke because one of its professors is also among the group’s leaders. The school said there was no misuse of funds.
On its website, the Global Energy Balance Network says it received an “unrestricted gift” from Coke, but that the company has “no input” into its activities.
Behind the scenes, however, Coke executives and the group’s leaders held meetings and conference calls to hash out the group’s mission and activities, according to emails obtained through a public records request. Early on, Applebaum informed the group’s president, James Hill, that those involved would need to be open about collaboration with private industry.
“That is non-negotiable,” she wrote.
Relatively minor matters, such as the group’s logo, were also covered.
“Color will not be an issue — except for blue. Hope you can understand why,” Applebaum.
Coke’s cans are red, while Pepsi’s are blue.
“It seems like another one of these classic cases of money coming from industry with no strings attached — that’s the official message. But it’s a very different kind of story taking place,” said Leigh Turner, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics who studies academic integrity and conflicts of interest.
The exchanges weren’t strictly limited to discussions about the group, and included Applebaum expressing approval or disapproval of health articles, and talk of other work with Coke. In an email to another Coke executive, Hill proposes research on “energy balance” that would be “very specific to coke interests.”
Coke has long stressed the idea of “energy balance,” or the need to offset calorie intake with physical activity. It’s a basic concept few would disagree with, but critics say the company uses it to downplay the effects of sugary drinks by shifting more attention to the need for exercise.
In an introductory video, one of the Global Energy Balance Network’s leaders said the media focuses on “eating too much, eating too much, eating too much — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on.” The video has since been taken down, and the group said the idea that it only focuses on physical activity is inaccurate.
Hill declined a request for a phone interview, but said in an email that the group’s strategy benefits “all who are concerned about obesity.” He said Coke provided input into the group’s “organizational structure,” but that it was understood the company would be “hands off.”
The group wants to continue its work, he said.
Since 2010, Coke said it gave $550,000 to Hill that was unrelated to the group. A big part of that was research he and others were involved with, but the figure also covers travel expenses and fees for speaking engagements and other work. It does not include money from Coke’s overseas divisions or industry groups such as the American Beverage Association.
Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton wants voters to know she is no friend of Wall Street. But Wall Street has frequently been a friend to her.
In the 18 months prior to announcing her second campaign for president, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination addressed private equity investors in California, delivered remarks to bankers in Hilton Head, South Carolina and spoke to brokers at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida.
Her efforts capped a nearly 15-year period in which Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made at least $35 million by giving 164 speeches to financial services, real estate and insurance companies after leaving the White House in 2001, according to an Associated Press analysis of public disclosure forms and records released by her campaign.
The long and lucrative relationship between the Clinton family and the nation’s finance industry has emerged as a key issue in her Democratic primary race. Her rivals, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, accuse her of being too cozy with Wall Street and the industry she once represented as a senator from New York.
Her backers at financial firms say they have little expectation her family’s personal profits will influence her policymaking, noting their own opposition to her plan to raise taxes on the hedge fund and private equity profits known as carried interest.
“She and Bill were both government servants all of their life and there was a set period of time when they could make money,” venture capitalist Alan Patricof, a longtime Clinton fundraiser, said of the Clintons’ paid speechmaking. “She had to maximize her earning potential.”
The Clinton campaign also points to her record, saying it shows a history of working to regulate the industry. Negative ads run by a group called Future 45, a super PAC backed by six-figure checks from hedge fund managers, demonstrate that Wall Street expects her to follow through on her proposals, aides said.
“Any honest look at Hillary Clinton’s record shows she spoke out early and often against Wall Street’s excesses in the run-up to the financial crisis,” said campaign spokesman Brian Fallon. “It’s clear they believe she will take action as president to crack down on the industry’s abuses
The bulk of the Clintons’ paid speeches to the financial industry came after the 2008 economic crash. From 2009 to 2014, the couple made $26 million from 109 appearances sponsored by banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, private equity firms and real estate businesses, and at those industries’ conferences and before their trade organizations.
With Hillary Clinton serving as secretary of state for most of that period, her husband brought in the bulk of the funds, earning nearly $17 million. That included $250,000 Bill Clinton made for mingling with investment managers in New York on May 12 — thirty days after Hillary Clinton released a video announcing her second bid for the White House.
What the Clintons said in their speeches is hard to find. Although many of the remarks were given to large groups, any broadcast or transcription was typically barred — along with the press.
Still, some details have trickled out.
Sometimes the subject was foreign affairs. Sometimes it was more personal.
“It’s so important for women like us to get out of our comfort zones and be willing to fail. I’ve done that, too, on a very large stage,” she said, according to a report in the real estate blog The Real Deal, which attended her October 2014 speech to the annual convention of the Commercial Real Estate Women Network in Miami Beach.
Beyond the personal income, Clinton also has close political ties to the finance industry. Over the course of her career, from her 2000 run for Senate to the two presidential campaigns, people working in the finance, insurance and real estate industries have given her campaigns about $35 million — more than donors from any other lines of work, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Since her husband left the White House, the family’s charity, the Clinton Foundation, has collected millions more from the industry, with several Wall Street banks down for as much as $5 million each.
While Clinton doesn’t rule out breaking up the big banks, she argues that restoring Glass-Steagall, the law that once separated commercial and investment banking, wouldn’t go far enough to curb risk. Instead, she would impose a graduated fee on large financial firms that would increase as companies held greater amounts of debt. A separate tax would be levied on high-frequency trading, and she has vowed tougher criminal penalties for individuals who break the rules.
“I go after not just the banks,” Clinton told Democrats in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday. “I go after the hedge funds, big insurance companies, shadow banking.”
Those proposals aren’t worrying her backers on Wall Street, who argue that her time representing New York gives Clinton a deep understanding of how their industry works.
But the proposals also don’t do much to win support from some who feel a better choice for their industry will be found among the GOP’s candidates.
Donors working in the finance and insurance industry have given $22 million to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and $21 million to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and their affiliated super PACs — roughly three times as much as to Clinton and the outside group supporting her, according to Crowdpac.com, a nonpartisan political research company.
Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz contributed to this report from Washington.
Follow Lisa Lerer and Ken Thomas on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/llerer and http://twitter.com/kthomasdc
DOVER, Del. (AP) — Use of force reports and personnel evaluations suggest that Dover police knew that a white officer charged with assaulting a black suspect in 2013 by kicking him in the head had a predilection for using unwarranted physical force.
The attorney for Cpl. Thomas Webster IV says prosecutors should not be allowed to use the internal police records at Webster’s trial next week.
Police dashcam video shows Webster kicking Lateef Dickerson while Dickerson was on his hands and knees, breaking his jaw.
Prosecutors have reviewed 29 prior use-of-force reports for Webster and are seeking to point to three specific incidents in which he struck suspects in the face.
A 2006 departmental evaluation notes that there had been times when Webster should have tried “lesser degrees of force to accomplish an objective.”
NEW YORK (AP) — On a recent morning, Delta Air Lines Flight 435 pushed back early from the gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Passengers watched the safety video and settled in for a six-hour trip.
Then they waited. And waited.
Still within sight of the gate, their jet sat motionless due to airport congestion. It wasn’t until 30 minutes after passengers buckled in that they were finally in the sky.
It’s a scene playing out across the country. According to an Associated Press analysis, airplanes spent 23 minutes and 32 seconds, on average, taxiing between gates and runways during the first nine months of the year. That’s the longest it has been since the Bureau of Transportation Statistics started tracking taxi times in 1995 and a 50-second increase over last year’s average.
For passengers, the rising delays add to the frustrations of travel. A plane might land early but then sit waiting for a gate to open up. Flights are still arriving “on time” but only because airlines have increased scheduled flying times to account for the added taxi times. The Delta flight made it to the gate in San Francisco 10 minutes ahead of schedule despite the takeoff delays.
The creep in taxi times is attributed to a series of changes: massive runway construction projects at some of the nation’s busiest airports; schedule changes that increase the number of flights at peak hours; and new, distant runways that relieve congestion but require more time to reach.
“It’s death by a thousand cuts,” says Vikram Krishnan, a partner in the aviation practice of consultancy Oliver Wyman.
The problems on the ground are costing airlines dearly.
“Two, three, four, five minutes in a fleet of 500 planes a day is significant amounts of money,” says aviation consultant Mike Boyd.
That translates into hundreds of millions of dollars extra in operating costs so far this year, according to AP calculations factoring in average operating costs including pilot and flight attendant salaries.
Airlines say the longer taxi times are baked into schedules, so planes generally still arrive on time. So far this year, 79 percent of flights have been at the gate within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, the best performance since 2012.
Passengers might be spending more time on planes, but airlines are better managing their expectations by increasing scheduled times. That masks some of the problems, like taxi delays.
For instance, ten years ago the average scheduled time from gate to gate between Chicago and San Francisco was 4 hours and 32 minutes. Today, flights are scheduled for an extra 11 minutes, according to PlaneStats.com — even though airports in the two cities are the same 1,846 miles apart.
All it takes are a few problems at some of the country’s busiest airports to drive up the national taxi time average.
The top offender in the past year was Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Of all the additional taxi time minutes in the nation, one of out of five extra minutes can be traced back to delays at O’Hare.
Planes in Chicago this year spent an average of 1 minute and 18 seconds extra navigating the taxiways. And taxi times are up 3 minutes and 24 seconds from five years ago, a 20-percent increase. Those delays add up considering that O’Hare had 227,358 flights during the first nine months of this year.
Most of the problems at O’Hare stem from a construction project that is reconfiguring taxiways and runways. The long-term goal is to reduce congestion but delays racked up during the construction. A new runway did just open, but further away from the airport’s terminals. Longer trips from that runway are not yet reflected in government data.
In an email to the AP, O’Hare officials note that taxi times “will fluctuate as construction phases are started or finished” and that the work is helping to reduce delays in the sky around the airport.
Delays have also been climbing at the two main airports in Dallas, but for different reasons.
At Dallas Love Field, taxi times are up two minutes, or 13-percent, so far this year. That’s the highest percent gain of any major airport. Home to Southwest Airlines, Love Field saw the number of scheduled flights during the first nine months of this year spike 41 percent to 47,438 after the repeal of a federal law restricting most long-distance flights from that airport.
Terry L. Mitchell, the airport’s assistant director for operations, says the increase in flights, construction projects and the use of a further runway to reduce noise concerns of neighbors all led to the run up in taxi times. Now that construction is complete and the airport at capacity, he expects no further growth in taxi times.
Across town at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, taxi times climbed two and a half minutes, or 11.7 percent. In this case, the increase was due to new scheduling procedures by American Airlines, which carries 82 percent of the passengers at the airport.
American groups together large numbers of flights in Dallas — and its other hubs — to allow passengers easy connections. In March, the airline reconfigured its schedule so more flights arrive and depart in a narrower band of time. That meant shorter layovers in the airport, more connection options for passengers and more revenue opportunities for the airline. However, the adjustments also extended taxi times. American accounted for those increases in its schedule.
“When they try to cram as many flights as possible into their hubbing complexes,” says airline consultant Paul Sterbenz, “they create logjams.”
Follow Scott Mayerowitz at twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-mayerowitz
MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Art Museum, known for its winged-like sunscreen that opens and closes over Lake Michigan, is expanding.
The new building, designed by local architect James Shields, stands next to the winged structure by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
The $34 million project provides 30,000 more square feet for art and renovates two buildings, including the War Memorial Center designed by modernist architect Eero Saarinen, whose works include the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Museum Director Dan Keegan says the new building was designed to be “in harmony with” the Saarinen — both having cantilevered elements. He says they act as a counterpoint the Calatrava addition.
The new space includes the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts dedicated to light-based media, including photography, film, video installation and media art.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Authorities say a New York business owner defrauded the state insurance plan of $1.6 million by selling prison officers and other workers expensive earbuds and then billing for hearing aids.
State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott announced Joshua Miller’s arrest Monday.
Authorities say the Syracuse-area man paid a corrections officer $70,000 to refer hundreds of state workers to his practice, where he sold them earbuds and earplugs and then billed the state for $3,000 per device. In each case, the claims were submitted as “medically required.”
The employees paid no out-of-pocket expenses for the earbuds, which were touted as “ideal” for video games and music.
Miller is charged with grand larceny and health care fraud. Messages left for him were not initially returned Monday.