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8 Beloved Things That Aren't Disappearing (Despite What You've Read)

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Don’t panic, but we’re running out of things to panic about running out of. It seems every month the Internet becomes hysterical over an alleged shortage of some popular item. But more often than not, these “shortages” are just live demonstrations of economics at work, taking us on a roller coaster of supply and demand made sensational by panic-inducing headlines. Let’s put a few of these rumors to rest. 

1. Chocolate

You’ve probably read the headlines: “The world’s biggest chocolate-maker says we’re running out of chocolate,” raves the Washington Post. “The cocoa crisis: Why the world’s stash of chocolate is melting away,” The Guardian warns. But fear not, cocoa connoisseurs: The sweet stuff isn’t going anywhere. It’s just going to get a bit more expensive. 

“The ‘running out of chocolate’ theme can reasonably be seen as spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt in an attempt to manipulate the market,” Clay Gordon, a chocolate consultant and author of the book Discover Chocolate, told mental_floss. “Do you have to worry about there not being chocolate anymore? The answer is no.”

But the narrative isn’t entirely contrived. Gordon says there are two very real pressures on the cocoa chain: climate change, which will likely cut supply, and increased demand for chocolate from new markets, like Asia. If you took economics 101, you know that when supply goes down and demand goes up, prices skyrocket. We’re already seeing this: Cocoa prices have climbed by more than 60 percent since 2012. Cheap, mass market chocolate candies, like Snickers and M&Ms, will be the hardest hit, Gordon says. “The current large producers of cocoa are at greater risks than smaller producers,” he says. Indeed, last year Hershey announced it was raising prices by 8 percent. 

A 2011 study says climate change will start to really impact cocoa farmers by 2030, but goes on to say that “there will also be areas where suitability of cocoa increases,” so there’s that. The looming shortage is also sparking new innovations in cocoa production. Researchers are creating new breeds of cacao trees that are resistant to some disease and can produce seven times more beans.

(And that 60 percent price increase the Washington Post was worried about? That’s lower than the high reached in 2011. In 2012—which the Post used as a baseline—the price collapsed. A just-as-accurate headline would have read "cocoa prices have fallen 15 percent since 2011." And it’s still much lower than the all time cocoa high from 1977.)

Gordon says you can prepare for the price increase by switching from cheap chocolate to higher quality stuff, which may be a bit more pricey, but is unlikely to get any more expensive. “A lot of the higher-end chocolate is made from cocoa that’s purchased more directly and is also made from cocoa beans that are not traded on the market and are not subject to speculation,” he explains. Also, it tastes better. 

2. Bacon

Back in 2012, panic erupted among pork lovers when a global bacon “shortage” threatened to ruin breakfast. The source of the rumor was traced to a single press release from The National Pig Association (NPA) of the United Kingdom that used some pretty strong language, calling a global shortage of pork and bacon “unavoidable.” The story was picked up by CBS News, CNBC, and the Washington Post, among other outlets. But a bacon shortage there was not. Instead, as with chocolate, bacon simply became more expensive for a while. 

The panic was tied to the 2012 drought that badly damaged the global corn supply. Pigs are raised on corn, “hence, the ‘bacon shortage’—actually a global increase in meat prices as a slightly delayed downstream consequence of the increase in corn prices,” as Matthew Yglesias at Slate explained. In 2013, panic spiked again after a virus killed millions of pigs, sending prices even higher. Indeed, the retail price of bacon hit a painful all-time high in the summer of 2014 of around $6 per pound.

But how quickly things change: Just a few months later, the price of pork dropped, with forecasters calling for an all-time high of 23.9 billion pounds to be produced in the U.S. in 2015. “It’s amazing,” John Nalivka, president of agriculture-advisory firm Sterling Marketing Inc., told the Wall Street Journal this January. “We’ve gone from ‘We’re going to run out of pork!’ to ‘What are we going to do with all of this meat?’” 

3. Tequila

Rumors of a tequila shortage have circulated since the early 2000s, when, following a surge in demand, prices skyrocketed and producers needed to start using lower quality product just to fill the gap. Because of the rise in consumption, farmers started planting more agave, the plant from which tequila is made. By 2005, there was so much agave available that the bottom fell out of the market, and many farmers abandoned their agave operations for a more lucrative crop: corn

Many of the farmers who stuck with the tequila-producing plants saw their crop succumb to rot and had to burn large swaths of it around 2007 and 2008. Because the plants take so long to mature, it was rumored that a shortage of agave would only begin to impact the tequila market around 2013, but that never really happened—or at least not to any extreme degree. Because of the boom and bust cycles, large tequila brands have begun to take more care in monitoring their agave nurseries. In 2013, Bloomberg reported that Sauza Tequila had 15 million plants. 

In the last few years, the demand for tequila has only continued to rise, seeing a 5 percent increase in U.S. sales volume last year. Producers have boosted their agave crop accordingly, and many of the large manufacturers are investing in research to turn production into a more efficient science. The downside, experts say, is this cheap mass market tequila is of low quality, the kind only suited for frozen margaritas out of a machine. Depending on your taste in tequila, that might be just fine. 

4. Internet

Despite our love for chocolate, tequila, and bacon, they’re all things we could reasonably live without if we really had to. The Internet, on the other hand, is a necessity for modern living, which is what makes headlines like this one so scary. “It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally going to run out of internet,” writes Darren Orf at Gizmodo, predicting “an internet crisis of biblical proportion.” The reality is much less click-baity and a little bit technical. Bear with me. 

At the dawn of the modern Internet, each computer was given a different “internet protocol” (or IP) address. In the early '80s, the fourth version (IPv4) was standardized which gave a series of 32-bit numbers unique to each individual computer that identify your device to the Internet. “IP addresses are the Internet’s equivalent of telephone numbers,” explains Robert McMillan at the Wall Street Journal. In total, there are about 4.3 billion possible 32-bit IP numbers, and we’ve run out. But that doesn’t mean your internet is going to shut off. It probably won’t affect you at all, unless you’re a massive business hoping to expand your Internet footprint. 

Some of the biggest Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, are in the process of switching over to a new Internet protocol system called IPv6 (IPv5 never made it out of the lab). As the WSJ explains, the new system “allows for a mind-boggling increase in addresses to 340 undecillion, or 340 followed by 36 zeroes, enough to assign an IP address to every gram of matter on Earth.” The transition will happen over a number of years and, with the exception of a few hiccups for people with outdated home routers or operating systems, consumers’ Internet access shouldn’t be interrupted. 

5. Prosecco

Italian sparkling wine—a.k.a. Prosecco—is now more sought after than actual Champagne (at least in the UK). Despite its growing popularity, the beverage’s prices have remained about the same. So, earlier this year, Robert Cremonese, export manager of a Prosecco brand called Bisol, dropped a marketing bomb on bubbly imbibers. “Last year’s harvest was very poor,” he told an industry publication, “and down by up to 50 percent in some parts, so there is a very real possibility of a global shortage.” 

The media responded accordingly, and people panicked. But the rising tide was short-lived. Stefano Zanette, President of the Prosecco DOC Consortium, a group “charged with protecting, upholding and promoting the standards of Prosecco,” released a statement debunking the scheme. “Despite the fact that the 2014 harvest was hit with some harsh weather,” he said, “the total certified production was up 17.9 percent as compared to the previous harvest.” Cheers! 

6. Avocados

Avocados are having a moment. Or rather, they’re having a decade. In 1999, Americans consumed a little more than a pound of the fruit per capita. Compare that to last year, where that number rose to 5.8 pounds per person. The problem: farming avocados requires a lot of water, about 72 gallons for a single pound of fruit. And California, where 80 percent of American-grown avocados are raised, is facing its fourth year of extreme drought. In April of this year, New York magazine asked, “Have You Eaten Your Last Avocado?” The short answer? No. In fact, the executive director of the Hass Avocado Board told QZ that in 2015, there would be more avocados available in the U.S. than any time in the last 10 years. 

The long answer: California farmers are adapting to the unfortunate growing conditions, planting avocado trees in higher density and seeing good results. “We're producing twice as much fruit for a little bit less water,” one farmer told NPR. The California Avocado Commission expected the 2015 harvest to be up by 10 percent. But even if the Golden State’s harvest was low, 70 percent of the avocados Americans eat are imported from places like Chile and Peru. So, according to New York, “Avocados won’t disappear; they’ll just become a luxury item.” 

7. Limes

Panic over a “limepocalypse” hit a fevered pitch last spring. But it wasn’t so much a shortage as it was a massive and short-lived price hike. The cost of limes increased by 400 percent, with cases going for more than $100 in the first part of last year. Low harvest numbers due to bad rainfall in Mexico, compounded by crop infestation, boosted cost. But the other problem was that many of Mexico’s lime regions were absorbed in a war between farmers and drug cartels. Prices quickly dropped with a crackdown on the cartel, and when the growing season got into full swing and production picked up. Here’s a headline from March of last year: "Soaring lime prices put squeeze on restaurants, food lovers." And less than two months later, in May: "Lime prices plummeting before Cinco de Mayo."

8. Corona

Somehow, Corona has become the 5th best-selling beer in the U.S. with consumption up 10 percent in the last five years. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Constellation Brands, which owns Corona, is boosting its plant size to keep up with demand. It didn’t take long for the narrative to be twisted into fear-mongering headlines warning of an impending Corona shortage. The rumors caught the attention of Constellation Brands’ senior director of communications, Michael McGrew, who issued this statement: "There are some inaccurate reports coming out today stemming from a Wall Street Journal story that ran yesterday. To clarify, we DO NOT anticipate any Corona shortages. There is no merit to this rumor."

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Recall Alert: Swiss Rolls And Bread Sold at Walmart and Food Lion Linked to Salmonella
Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons // CC 1.0

New items have been added to the list of foods being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. According to Fox Carolina, snack cakes and bread products produced by Flowers Foods, Inc. have been pulled from stores in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The baked goods company, based in Georgia, has reason to believe the whey powder it buys from a third-party supplier is tainted with salmonella. The ingredient is added to its Swiss rolls, which are sold under various brands, as well as its Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread. Popular chains that normally sell Flowers Foods products include Walmart and Food Lion.

The U.S. is in the middle of a salmonella outbreak. In June, Kellogg's recalled Honey Smacks due to contamination and the CDC is still urging consumers to avoid the brand. The cereal has sickened dozens of people since early March. So far, there have been no reported illnesses connected to the potential Flower Foods contamination.

You can find the full list of recalled items below. If you have one of these products in your kitchen, throw it out immediately or return it to the store where you bought it to be reimbursed.

  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • Food Lion Swiss Rolls
  • Baker's Treat Swiss Rolls
  • Market Square Swiss Rolls
  • Great Value Swiss Rolls
  • Captain John Derst's Old Fashioned Bread

[h/t Fox Carolina]

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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