Taxing Soda and Booze Can Spark Healthy Spiral, Research Says

Taxing Soda and Booze Can Spark Healthy Spiral, Research Says

  • Tool to reduce ‘death and suffering’ can help the poor
  • Experts call for effort to stem obesity, disease costs

Nobody likes taxes, but new research shows they can be good for your health.

Taxing products such as soda, alcohol and tobacco can steer consumers toward healthier choices and avert a ruinous tumble in which obesity fuels disease and medical costs push people further into poverty, data from countries ranging from Chile to India show. The analysis was published Wednesday in The Lancet medical journal.

A tax on unhealthy goods “is probably the single-most important measure that can be taken to reduce death and suffering,” Larry Summers, the U.S. economist and former Treasury Secretary, said in an interview. “That’s why I think it’s important.”

Summers’s commentary accompanied the Lancet report, which focused on ways to curb illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer that can be blamed for 38 million deaths each year. A research group pulled together five studies and found that taxes on unhealthy products can work without disproportionately harming the poor.

New MilkyBar

When it comes to sweet drinks, more countries are willing to test taxes to tackle obesity along with budget deficits, potentially hurting companies such as Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc., according to Bloomberg Intelligence. The U.K.’s own sugar tax experiment is scheduled to take effect Friday.

Wealthier households usually shoulder more of the tax burden because they spend more on alcohol, sodas and snacks, the researchers said in the Lancet. Poorer families also tend to reduce consumption more in response to higher prices. Such taxes work best if some of the revenue is used to fund programs for the poor, they found.

Companies are responding by working to cut sugar and calories. Nestle SA has started selling slimmed-down Milkybar chocolates in Britain and Ireland in the first implementation of a new technology that promises the same sweetness with 30 percent less sugar.

In Mexico, the introduction of a soft-drinks tax resulted in a 17 percent decrease in purchases among lower-income groups, and almost no change in higher-income groups, the Lancet report said.

Obesity, once seen as a problem plaguing only wealthier nations, is now on the rise in lower-income regions too. Countries must tackle it in the same way as malnutrition, said Summers, who chairs a task force on fiscal policy for health with Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-04/taxing-soda-and-booze-can-spark-healthy-spiral-research-says

Vehicles are now America’s biggest CO2 source but EPA is tearing up regulations

Transport overtook power generation for climate-warming emissions in 2017 but the Trump administration is reversing curbs on auto industry pollution

Some of the most common avatars of climate change hulking power stations and billowing smokestacks may need a slight update. For the first time in more than 40 years, the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the US isnt electricity production but transport cars, trucks, planes, trains and shipping.

Emissions data has placed transport as the new king of climate-warming pollution at a time when the Trump administration is reviewing or tearing up regulations that would set tougher emissions standards for car and truck companies. Republicans in Congress are also pushing new fuel economy rules they say will lower costs for American drivers but could also weaken emissions standards.

Opponents of the administration fret this agenda will imperil public health and hinder the effort to address climate change.

This Environmental Protection Agency doesnt seem to have met an air regulation that it likes, said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board and a former EPA assistant administrator. Ive not seen any evidence that this administration knows anything about the auto industry, they just seem to be against anything the Obama administration did.

Vehicle emissions are going up, so clearly not enough is being done on that front. The Trump administration is halting further progress at a critical point when we really need to get a grip on this problem.

The 1970 Clean Air Act, signed by Richard Nixon, set standards for a cocktail of different pollutants emitted from new vehicles. New cars and trucks, which account for more than 80% of transport emissions, now have to meet fuel efficiency standards and display this information to consumers. This approach has helped cleanse previously smog-laden American cities and tamp down greenhouse gas emissions.

But in 2016, about 1.9bn tons of carbon dioxide emissions were emitted from transportation, up nearly 2% on the previous year, according to the Energy Information Administration. This increase means that transport has overtaken power generation as the most polluting sector in the country, and its likely to stay that way.

Cheap gasoline prices have led to a recent uptick in vehicle emissions, despite the fuel standards, at the same time that coal is being rapidly displaced by an abundance of cheap natural gas and the steady rise of renewable energy, driving a sharp decline in CO2 emissions from the power grid.

While coalminers have lost their jobs to technological advancement and environmental protesters have thrown their bodies in the path of oil pipelines, there has been far less to disrupt the basic emissions-emitting models of cars, trucks and planes.

Americans are buying larger cars and taking more flights domestic aviation emissions grew 10% between 2012 and 2016 and face little opposition in doing so.

The change in power generation has been very impressive over the past 10 to 15 years, said Brett Smith, assistant director of the Center for Automotive Research.

In the automotive sector, there isnt the same push. There are certainly Americans concerned about global warming but people are driving bigger and bigger vehicles each year. Its not a priority for them. The cost of fuel is pretty cheap and at the moment there isnt a better option out there than the internal combustion engine.

Transport accounts for about a quarter of all US planet-warming emissions but also poses a direct health threat to about 45 million Americans who live, work or attend school within 300ft of roads that are shrouded in high air pollution levels.

This pollution can stunt lung growth, trigger asthma attacks, exacerbate heart disease and cause developmental problems. The EPA estimates 17,000 schools across the US are located next to roads with heavy traffic, with children from low-income and minority groups disproportionately put at risk. California is the only state in the US to ban the construction of a school on the cheap land found beside major highways.

US cities havent emulated the likes of London and Stockholm by charging drivers a congestion fee to coax them on to public transport, cycling or walking; nor does the US feature the comparatively high rates of fuel tax seen in Europe. Frances move to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 would be politically unthinkable in the States.
But the air is much cleaner in American cities than it was in the 1970s, and a world away from the fug that now envelops Beijing and Delhi, in part due to vehicle emissions standards that have progressively been ratcheted up by the EPA.

That trajectory has been cast in doubt by the Trump presidency. In March, the EPA scrapped a deal struck between Barack Obamas administration and automakers that would require new cars to run 54.4 miles per gallon of fuel, up from 27.5 miles per gallon, by 2025.

The White House said the new rules had been shoved down the throats of car makers, with the main industry lobby group pointing out that consumers overwhelmingly prioritize safety, driving performance and value for money over fuel efficiency. There are more than 70 car models on sale that achieve 40 miles per gallon and they account for just 1% of total new vehicle sales.

Then, last month, the EPA cited regulatory overreach by the previous administration for its decision to waive clean truck standards that would have phased out glider vehicles that produce 55 times more diesel soot than new trucks. Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA, said his predecessors had attempted to bend the rule of law and expand the reach of the federal government in a way that threatened to put an entire industry of specialized truck manufacturers out of business.

These rollbacks from the executive branch have dovetailed with an effort by Republicans in the Senate and the House to revamp fuel efficiency rules by replacing state and federal requirements with a single standard. Environmental groups and previous administration officials fear this will lead to a further weakening of emissions standards.

Americas clean car standards have dramatically improved the fuel efficiency of vehicles, saving consumers billions of dollars and cutting pollution in the process, said Carol Browner, a former administrator of the EPA.

Instead of rolling back commonsense, successful and popular clean cars standards, we should focus on innovation and technology that will continue the auto industrys growth and the pollution reductions weve achieved since these standards were first established.

In the short term, this new approach risks a flashpoint between the federal government and California, which has a long-held waiver to enact vehicle pollution standards in excess of the national requirements. Twelve other states, including New York and Pennsylvania, follow Californias standards, an alliance that covers more than 130 million residents and about a third of the US vehicle market.

Nichols said she had been disturbed by signals coming from Pruitt and other EPA officials that she said show the federal government is looking to end Californias waiver.

We are very concerned because these standards are the bedrock of our whole climate change platform, she said. Scott Pruitt has made threatening noises about the Californian waiver, saying that we are trying to run the country. It feels like this is going to be the next shoe to drop. If it does, we will litigate and fight for our rights in the political arena with other states and consumer advocates.

With federal regulation set to be pared back, technological advances in electric and gas-powered cars, as well as consumer preferences, are likely to play an increasingly important role in whether vehicle emissions are forced back down.

A flurry of recent optimistic studies have forecast that, by 2040, as much as 90% of all cars in the US will be electric. But the current conundrum is that petroleum-fueled vehicles are cheaper and seen as more reliable than their electric counterparts by most new buyers. Affordable gasoline is competing with electric recharging stations that are considered too sparse by many drivers to risk running out of puff, no matter the benefit to the environment.

Its a challenging position for automotive companies because they are touting electric vehicles but ultimately they have to sell more cars, said Smith. Consumers in the US arent pushing for electric vehicles to the extent they are in Europe and unless we take a very different approach as a country, that doesnt look like it will change soon.

You will need to see a major change in battery technology to make it viable. People are becoming more aware and concerned about global warming, but we arent there yet. And when you look at the vehicles being put out by the major car companies, you could argue its not an issue for them, either.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/01/vehicles-climate-change-emissions-trump-administration

America Crowns a New Pollution King

For the first time in 40 years, power plants are no longer the biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. That dubious distinction now belongs to the transport sector: cars, trucks, planes, trains and boats.  

The big reversal didn’t happen because transportation emissions have been increasing. In fact, since 2000 the U.S. has experienced the flattest stretch of transportation-related pollution in modern record keeping, according to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The big change has come from the cleanup of America’s electric grid. 

The chart below shows carbon dioxide emissions from transportation exceeding those from electricity production in 2016 for the first time since 1978. The pollution gap has continued to widen further in 2017, according to a Bloomberg analysis.

Electricity use in the U.S. hasn’t declined much in the last decade, but it’s being generated from cleaner sources. A dramatic switch away from coal, the dirtiest fuel, is mostly responsible for the drop in emissions. Coal power has declined by more than a third in the last decade, according to the EIA, while cleaner natural gas has soared more than 60 percent. Wind and solar power are also increasingly sucking the greenhouse gases out of U.S. electricity production. 
 
This is good news, and not just because carbon dioxide emissions are the biggest contributor to global climate change. The shift to cleaner energy also has immediate local improvements to health by reducing the burden of asthma, cancer and heart disease.

The transportation sector is also entering a critical period of reformation. Cars are becoming more efficient under aggressive pollution rules passed under President Barack Obama, but that’s so far been offset by an ever-rising American appetite for SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks. Even the nation’s clean-air policies could soon change. The Trump administration is considering rolling back the toughest fuel-efficiency standards, which are set to take effect in the early 2020s. 

Investments in electric cars may soon begin to do to the transportation sector what wind and solar have done to the power sector: turn the pollution curve upside down. The price of battery packs has been plummeting by about 8 percent a year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and electric cars are now projected to become cheaper, more reliable, and more convenient than their gasoline-powered equivalents around the world by the mid-2020s.

When the electrification of the U.S. auto fleet begins in earnest, pollution from the two biggest energy sectors—electricity and transportation—may ultimately converge. Those electric cars are going draw their power from the grid.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-04/america-crowns-a-new-pollution-king

    Why November Means Unsafe Air in India’s Capital: QuickTake Q&A

    For the third straight November, thick toxic smog has enveloped India’s capital, New Delhi, forcing schools to shut down, halting traffic and sending residents scurrying to buy air purifiers and filtration masks. United Airlines briefly suspended service to the city, the Indian Medical Association declared a public health emergency, and India’s Supreme Court slapped a ban on selling fireworks ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the metropolis that’s home to 20 million people, has called New Delhi a "gas chamber." It’s not even India’s worst city for pollution.

    1. What causes the smog?

    Mostly it’s the burning of crop stubble, which continues unabated despite being banned in the surrounding states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. Farmers in those regions traditionally clear their fields by burning in preparation for the winter season. Contributing to the pollution are vehicle and industrial emissions, road and construction dust, and fires lit by the poor for domestic use. Compounding the problem: The trough-like topography of the north Indian region means polluted air lingers in colder months.

    2. What is the point of stubble burning?

    After rice, wheat or other grain is harvested, the straw that remains is called stubble, and it must be removed before the next planting. It once was used as cattle feed, or to make cardboard, but harvesting by combine (rather than by hand) leaves 80 percent of the residue in the field as loose straw that ends up being burnt. Disposal of the stubble by means other than burning — such as plowing it into a fine layer of field cover — costs time and money, two things that farmers say they can’t afford.

    3. How serious is the health risk?

    The World Health Organization warns that increasing air pollution in many of the world’s poorest cities is driving up the risk of stroke, heart disease and lung cancer in vulnerable populations. The World Bank estimated that 1.4 million people in India died prematurely due to air pollution in 2013, the latest year for which data is available. (Pollution has worsened since then.) The most dire threat to humans is from PM 2.5, the fine, inhalable particles that lodge deep in the lungs, where they can enter the bloodstream. World Health Organization guidelines say exposure to PM 2.5 above 300 micrograms per cubic meter is hazardous. New Delhi’s recent readings have exceeded 1,000, as they did last year.

    4. Why not enforce the ban on burning?

    Farmers are a strong electoral constituency. Getting them to change their ways is no easy task, particularly as labor shortages bite and push up the costs of removing stubble manually.

    5. Does the problem end when the burning stops?

    The worst of the pollution typically dissipates as spring begins, but New Delhi’s air remains dirty all year. On every day in 2017, PM 2.5 readings exceeded the level deemed healthy by the WHO (up to 50 micrograms per cubic meter). And there were 39 days when readings topped 300, according to U.S. embassy data through Nov. 20.

    6. Then what action is India taking?

    New Delhi takes temporary measures, such as restricting traffic on alternate days or attempting to prevent the burning of waste. The federal government has accelerated the timeline for stricter emission rules; oil refiners plan a 288 billion-rupee ($4.4-billion) outlay on upgrades to comply with a local equivalent of European emission standards by April 2018.

    7. Why hasn’t more been done?

    The chaotic nature of Indian democracy doesn’t lend itself to coordinated action. Unlike in China, where the one-party government has directed a concerted nationwide anti-pollution drive, India’s various levels of government have failed to make meaningful progress on an issue that sprawls across political jurisdictions run by rival parties. At the same time, pollution hasn’t become as important an issue at the ballot box as, say, inflation or employment.

    8. Where else in India is pollution a serious problem?

    India accounted for 19 of the 35 worst-polluted cities in the world, as measured by PM 2.5, in WHO’s 2016 rankings. The Indian cities of Gwalior and Allahabad ranked second and third, behind only the Iranian city of Zabol, which is beset by dust storms. New Delhi, ranked 11th, was behind Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh for most polluted capital city.

    9. What’s the impact on the economy?

    The World Bank in 2013 estimated the annual cost of environmental degradation in India at $80 billion. According to a study by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, pollution-related illnesses drag down productivity and reduce annual economic output by as much as 2 percent in developing economies.

    10. What can India do?

    To start, it could implement measures it’s already approved. That means enforcing the ban on burning crop stubble, holding to stricter emissions targets for 2020 and forcing construction sites to stick to rules on creating dust. Phasing out diesel cars and adopting cleaner fuels like compressed natural gas would also help, as would strengthening the public transport system to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

    The Reference Shelf

      Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-23/why-november-means-unsafe-air-in-india-s-capital-quicktake-q-a

      San Franciscos Air Quality Matches Beijings

      Air quality in San Francisco sank to the level of smog-choked Beijing this week, as soot from more than a dozen wildfires in California’s wine country blanketed the Bay Area.

      As San Francisco residents woke up to a hazy sky for the fifth day in a row, the concentration of dangerous particulate matter was forecast to be 158 on the air-quality index, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. That’s roughly on par with notoriously smoggy Beijing, which clocked in at 165.

      The gauge, known as PM2.5, refers to particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which can be inhaled and penetrate deep into the lungs. While long-term exposure is correlated with lung and heart disease, Bay Area residents should only experience temporary discomfort with no permanent effects, said John Balmes, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

      Lenard Lesser, a doctor at primary care group One Medical, said he has seen several patients with smoke-related complaints, including sore throat and difficulty breathing, at his San Francisco office this week. Children, older adults and people with lung disease such as asthma should stay indoors while the air quality is bad, and wear an "N95"-rated mask when outdoors, Lesser said in an email.

        Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-13/san-francisco-air-quality-matches-beijing-s-as-wildfires-burn

        A 14-year-old founder built Swiipe, the Tinder of news apps

        Swipe right.
        Image: Shutterstock / Rawpixel.com

        The news has been so awful for so long, who wouldn’t want to swipe left? 

        Swiipe is an iOS news app—from a 14-year-old founder in Ireland, no less—that lets users evaluate the news exactly as they would a profile on Bumble. Users see stories from 52 news sources and swipe left on stories they don’t want to read, swipe right to save an article for later, or tap the screen to read a story now. 

        It’s sort of strange to “swipe left” on a piece of news, but swiping doesn’t imply that you don’t like the news—just that you don’t really want to read about it. 

        “If you use Tinder, you might be used to it. But my age group might not be used to it,” founder Alex Goodison said. 

        Goodison always wanted to pay closer attention to everything going on in the world, but it was hard with school and extracurriculars. He looked for a way in, but Flipboard, Medium, and even Snapchat Discover all came up short. 

        “I would like to read the news more often, but I never found a certain app that had me coming back,” Goodison said. 

        Swipe right on Swiipe.

        Image: swiipe

        That was one reason he started building the Tinder-inspired news app. Instead of relying on push alerts or scrolling through endless top stories, users interact with and make a decision about the news of the day. On Product Hunt, Goodison described his app as “a different take on viewing the headlines by a 14-year-old 📰.” 

        “When people get given a whole long list of text they’re not as intrigued,” he said. “My idea is to make it more fun and interactive for the person to make them read the news again.”  

        Goodison built the app during his 13-week summer vacation in Ireland. He just started the Irish equivalent of ninth grade, and he’s set to graduate from his secondary school in Cork County in 2021. 

        He started to get interested in tech because of his father, who works as a developer for a mortgage company in Dublin. In his free time, Goodison taught himself to code through free tutorials on YouTube and a few paid courses from Udemy. He could have taken some computer classes through his school, but instead he chose the enterprise competition, or business, track. 

        Alex Goodison, right, at Ireland’s BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

        Image: alex goodison

        Swiipe is the fifth app he’s built, following a revision tool for national exams in Ireland, an app to locate defibrillators nationwide, a tennis scoring app, and a currency converter. 

        Those projects all stemmed from his own personal interests; heart disease ran in Goodison’s family, he likes tennis, and he needed a tool to study for his own exams. He wanted to build a news app, though, because of the specific coding skills it involved. This time, too, he wanted his app to appeal to people anywhere in the world, not just in Ireland. 

        Goodison rushed to finish his self-assigned summer project before school started up at the end of August. He uploaded the app to the App Store, where it sat quietly with barely a dozen downloads, short of Goodison’s goal of 100. Then he got on the homepage of Product Hunt, and suddenly Swiipe had been downloaded almost 1,300 times. 

        It’s not a ton of downloads—but it’s definitely a lot for a summer project. The app itself is appealing to users, like Goodison, who hadn’t found the news app that was quite right for them. 

        “People have contacted me and said this is now their daily news app,” he said. 

        Goodison has a few updates in the works—more choices for news sources, subscribing to stories by keyword instead of just publisher—and ideas for monetization and a social component. He can’t work full time on Swiipe now that school has started, but he still plans to work on the app—and other projects—on the weekends. 

        As for Goodison, he plans to move to the United States after graduating to pursue a career in tech, and he’s not too enthusiastic about taking the time to go to college. 

        “For the job I want to do, university isn’t famously attended,” he said. 

        First, there are this year’s exams—and his first app to really take off. 

        “There are big exams at the end of the year. I didn’t expect Swiipe to do this well,” he said. “I still have to do a lot of studying.” 

        Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/13/swiipe-tinder-news-app/

        Use neuroscience to convince your boss to let you nap at work

        Image: Orlova Kristina/mashable

         A nap can be a beautiful thing when we feel our brain slowly grinding to a halt. Whether it’s a siesta to shake off a food coma, a daytime doze on a lazy Sunday, or an all-out nap orgy with friends or loved ones, we arise feeling replenished, recharged, and ready to take action.
        Unfortunately, not very many bosses see any correlation between snoring and success. Only a handful of organization—Ben & Jerry’s, Nike, Zappos, Google, and The Huffington Post, to name a few—currently see naps as smart business. They’ve invested in nap pods and massage chairs because they know that, when it comes to boosting productivity and creativity in the workplace, naps can be just what the doctor ordered.

        If you aren’t among the lucky few who work for nap-friendly bosses, you’ve come to the right place for advice. I’m a Harvard Medical School neuroscientist who firmly believes in the power of the unfocused mind, and my goal is to have every business on Earth — including your employer — embrace naps as a vital part of the workday.  

        The neurology of naps

        First, allow me to clarify a few things and offer a bit of a disclaimer. 

        Not all naps are equal, and not all brains are equal. Everyone will respond differently to napping, as some brains are more energy-efficient than others. For instance, a 15-minute catnap might give Sally the salesperson three extra hours of battery life, but it will only provide Mary the marketer with one extra hour of productivity. 
        Science also offers us some words of caution. Unhealthy napping habits may increase the risk of diabetesmuscle aches, and heart disease. People who use long, frequent naps as a substitute for sleep, for example, seem to get ill more often. 

        On the other hand, strategic napping is scientifically proven to provide countless benefits. To get your boss on board, approach him or her with these three compelling science-backed arguments: 

        1. Naps will re-engage our team

        Employee disengagement has officially become an epidemic in America, with Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace Report revealing that 51 percent of today’s workforce members are disengaged from their jobs. Chances are good that your employer’s no exception to this trend. 

        Your boss is probably trying to re-engage the team by preaching (and rewarding) immense focus and tireless, around-the-clock hard work. However, you need to explain to him or her that the human brain operates at its best when it’s encouraged to oscillate between focus and unfocus. 

        Though naps may not seem very engaging, brain science tells us a vastly different story. While you’re asleep, your brain’s focus circuits get some much-needed rest, but believe it or not, other parts of your brain kick into overdrive. In fact, the brain consumes more energy during a nap than it does while you’re awake — and the bulk of this energy is devoted toward regions that promote self-awareness and emotional control. Therefore, naps don’t just help us think better; they help us feel better (especially morning naps). 

        A well-rested focus circuit, paired with a greater sense of self, is a recipe for engagement in the workplace. All it takes is five to 15 minutes per day.  

        2. Naps will help us innovate

        In today’s ever-changing business world, innovation is what keeps companies afloat. Creative energy must flow through every department, and it’s up to your boss to foster an atmosphere that encourages this. 

        Perhaps he or she bought beanbag chairs, ping-pong tables, and colorful artwork in an attempt to stimulate creative thought, but few things come close to sparking creativity like a nap does. Explain to your boss that naps will help your team navigate complex taskssharpen its thinking, and keep a keen eye on its competition. Naps drop drawbridges between seemingly disconnected thoughts and allow for new insights to emerge.

        Keep in mind, however, that in order to reap the full creative benefits of napping, it’s best to devote 90 minutes to each snooze. This may require a rejiggering of the workday; perhaps your company could lengthen its lunch break to promote midday napping, and then extend its office hours a bit to make up for it. 

        Napping helps people freshen up their ideas and gain sudden, unexpected insights. On a companywide basis, they can give a business just the creative edge it needs to thrive.  

        3. All the cool kids are napping

        It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s most endearing and innovative companies were among the first to embrace napping as a viable business strategy. This is the wave of the future, and your boss will be in great company if he or she hops aboard today. Current and prospective employees will be thrilled by the idea of working in a progressive environment that mirrors the likes of Google. 

        But it also goes beyond business. Some of the world’s most inspiring minds were also known nappers. Salvador Dalí, Ludwig van Beethoven, Aristotle, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison power-napped their way to universal reverence, and even presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton were fans of the practice. 

        If your boss still doesn’t see napping as legit, sign and circulate this nap petition amongst your co-workers. It will give your group even more cred, and your boss may be more open to listening.

        Strategic napping is productivity in disguise — and it’s time for your boss to recognize this fact. Thanks to science, we can now unmask the hidden benefits of naps and bring a whole new meaning to “sleeping on the job.” 

        Srini Pillay, M.D., is the CEO of NeuroBusiness Group and the award-winning author of numerous books, including the upcoming book “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind,” available for preorder wherever books are sold, “Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear,” and “Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders.” He also serves as an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School. 

        Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/24/nap-at-work-yes-you-definitely-should/

        Sugar is poison. My heart attack has finally opened my eyes to the truth | Giles Fraser: Loose canon

        Loose canon: Globally, diabetes has almost quadrupled in 35 years and yet the multibillion-dollar sugar industry is happy to keep us in the dark about why

        I am now a member of the zipper club. I know, I thought it sounded rude too. But apparently its the club name for those of us who have a scar right down the middleof our chest. I have one down my leg too, from groin to ankle. And as I spend time recovering from a heart bypass operation mostly doing very little, watching the cricket, reading the paper I have started to reflect on my condition. How did it come to this? How did the arteries of my heart become so clogged with gunk that I may have been just weeks from meeting my maker?

        Diabetic, they said. Pah, I thought. I dont feel any different. Ijust get up to pee a bit more at night. Some biochemical medical problem just seemed a bit too elusive, abstract, distant. I mean, when Diane Abbott blamed a bad interview on diabetes, who really took that seriously? Earlier this year, I was sent on a diabetes awareness day and spent the time looking out of the window, bored. They tried to explain it to me but I wasnt concentrating.

        Well, now that someone has sliced through my breastbone as they might a Christmas turkey, the whole thing doesnt seem quite so distant. And suddenly and unsurprisingly I am concentrating. All ears to, and pretty evangelical about, the evils of sugar. Sorry to have doubted you, Diane.

        Back in September 2016, the Journal of the American Medical Association published papers, discovered deep in the Harvard University archives, that demonstrated how the sugar industry has been manipulating research into heart disease for years. These papers revealed that the purveyors of this white poison in behaviour straight out of the tobacco industry playbook had been paying Harvard scientists throughout the 1960sto emphasise the link between fatand heart disease and ignore the connection with sugar. Since then, Coca-Cola has funded research into the link between sugar and obesity. And the confectionery industry has paid for research which demonstrated that children who eat sweets are thinner than those who dont.

        As I write, my son returns from the shops, perfectly on cue, laden with a chocolate bar, a full-fat Coke and a packet of lollipops. I want to tell him that Willy Wonka is a death-dealing drug dealer. But I bite my lip for now. He will think me a crank. Everything he likes has sugar in it. Thats my fault he got hooked on sugary breakfast cereals as a child. As Gary Taubes explained in his remarkable book The Case Against Sugar, published last year, it has assimilated itself into all aspects of our eating experience. Advertisements have normalised the omnipresence of sugar as a part of a balanced diet. And my sons brain has become accustomed to the dopamine it releases. He has become an addict. Most of us are addicts.

        In 1996, 1.4 million people in the UK had diabetes. Since then the figure has trebled to over 4 million. Diabetes now gobbles up more than 10% of the NHS budget, with that percentage set to rise steeply in the coming years. The World Health Authority published a major report on global diabetes last year. Its figures show that the number of people with diabetes has gone up from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. This is not just a matter of bad individual choices. You cant dismiss this as the aggregate of many millions of singular decisions, each one nothing more than a matter of weakness of will and responsible for itself alone. This has become a global epidemic.

        For the last 30 years I have built a pretty effective protective shell against fat-shaming. I would probably have taken losing half a stone if offered, but I wasnt especially unhappy with my body shape. But now I see things differently. Now I see a multibillion-dollar industry that makes its profits by keeping us obese and in the dark about why. After my operation, I cut out sugar and carbohydrates as best I could. I have lost 10 kilograms in the five weeks since. And I plan to lose a lot more. Itsnot a diet I hate diets. Its a form ofprotest. The scales have fallen from my eyes. Beware the candy man.

        Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2017/jul/13/sugar-is-poison-my-heart-attack-has-finally-opened-my-eyes-to-the-truth

        Threats, bullying, lawsuits: tobacco industry’s dirty war for the African market

        Revealed: In pursuit of growth in Africa, British American Tobacco and others use intimidatory tactics to attempt to suppress health warnings and regulation

        British American Tobacco (BAT) and other multinational tobacco firms have threatened governments in at least eight countries in Africa demanding they axe or dilute the kind of protections that have saved millions of lives in the west, a Guardian investigation has found.

        BAT, one of the worlds leading cigarette manufacturers, is fighting through the courts to try to block the Kenyan and Ugandan governments attempts to bring in regulations to limit the harm caused by smoking. The giant tobacco firms hope to boost their markets in Africa, which has a fast-growing young and increasingly prosperous population.

        In one undisclosed court document in Kenya, seen by the Guardian, BATs lawyers demand the countrys high court quash in its entirety a package of anti-smoking regulations and rails against what it calls a capricious tax plan. The case is now before the supreme court after BAT Kenya lost in the high court and the appeal court. A ruling is expected as early as next month.

        Tobacco: a deadly business

        BAT in Uganda asserts in another document that the governments Tobacco Control Act is inconsistent with and in contravention of the constitution.

        The Guardian has also seen letters, including three by BAT, sent to the governments of Uganda, Namibia, Togo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso revealing the intimidatory tactics that tobacco companies are using, accusing governments of breaching their own laws and international trade agreements and warning of damage to the economy.

        BAT denies it is opposed to all tobacco regulation, but says it reserves the right to ask the courts to intervene where it believes regulations may not comply with the law.

        Later this month, BAT is expected to become the worlds biggest listed tobacco firm as it completes its acquisition of the large US tobacco company Reynolds in a $49bn deal, and there are fears over the extent to which big tobacco can financially outmuscle health ministries in poorer nations. A vote on the deal by shareholders of both firms is due to take place next Wednesday, simultaneously in London at BAT and North Carolina at Reynolds.

        Professor Peter Odhiambo, a former heart surgeon who is head of the governments Tobacco Control Board in Kenya, told the Guardian: BAT has done as much as they can to block us.

        Experts say Africa and southern Asia are urgent new battlegrounds in the global fight against smoking because of demographics and rising prosperity. Despite declining smoking and more controls in some richer countries, it still kills more than seven million people globally every year, according to the WHO, and there are fears the tactics of big tobacco will effectively succeed in exporting the death and harm to poorer nations.

        There are an estimated 77 million smokers in Africa and those numbers are predicted to rise by nearly 40% from 2010 levels by 2030, which is the largest projected such increase in the world.

        In Kenya, BAT has succeeded in delaying regulations to restrict the promotion and sale of cigarettes for 15 years, fighting through every level of the legal system. In February it launched a case in the supreme court that has already halted the imposition of tobacco controls until probably after the countrys general election in August, which are being contested by parliamentarians who have been linked to payments by the multinational company.

        In Uganda, BAT launched legal action against the government in November, arguing that the Tobacco Control Act, which became law in 2015, contravenes the constitution. It is fighting restrictions that are now commonplace in richer countries, including the expansion of health warnings on packets and point-of-sale displays, arguing that they unfairly restrict its trade.

        The court actions are brought by BATs local affiliates, BAT Kenya and BAT Uganda, but approved at Globe House, the London headquarters of the multinational, which receives most of the profits from the African trade. In its 2016 annual report, BAT outlined the risk that unreasonable litigation would be brought in to control tobacco around the world. Its response was an engagement and litigation strategy coordinated and aligned across the Group.

        Focus on emerging markets

        British
        British packets of cigarettes, with stark warnings, beside packs from Africa. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

        At its annual meeting in March, chairman Richard Burrows toasted a vintage year for BAT, as profits rose 4% to 5.2bn after investors took their cut their dividend had increased by 10%. When asked about the legal actions in Africa, he said tobacco was an industry that should be regulated … but we want to see that regulation is serving the correct interests of the health mission and human mission which should lie behind it.

        So, from time to time its necessary for us to take legal action to challenge new regulation which he said was led by the local board.

        BAT says it is simply not true that we oppose all tobacco regulation, particularly in developing countries. Tobacco should be appropriately regulated as a product that has risks to health, it said, but where there are different interpretations of whether regulations comply with the law, we think it is entirely reasonable to ask the courts to assist in resolving it. It was opposed to only a handful of the issues in Kenyas regulations, not the entirety, it said in a statement.

        Although most countries in Africa have signed the World Health Organisation (WHO) treaty on tobacco control, none has yet fully implemented the smoking restrictions it endorses.

        The WHO predicts that by 2025, smoking rates will go up in 17 of the 30 Africa-region countries from their 2010 level. In some countries a massive hike is expected in Congo-Brazzaville, from 13.9% to nearly half the population (47.1%) and in Cameroon from 13.7% to 42.7%. In Sierra Leone it will be 41.2% (74% among men) and in Lesotho 36.9%.

        The tobacco industrys march on Africa

        In contrast, research showed last year that just 16.9% of adults smoke in the UK; and last month new figures showed UK heart disease deaths had fallen 20% since that countrys indoor smoking ban.

        The tobacco industry is now turning its focus toward emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to exploit the continents patchwork tobacco control regulations and limited resources to combat industry marketing advances, said Dr Emmanuela Gakidou and colleagues at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, publishing an analysis of smoking prevalence around the world in the Lancet in April.

        Africas growing numbers of children and young people, and its increasing wealth, represent a huge future market for the tobacco industry. The companies deny targeting children and cannot sell packs smaller than 10, but a new study carried out in Nairobi by the Johns Hopkins school of public health in the US and the Kenya-based Consumer Information Network found vendors selling cigarettes along the routes children take to walk to primary schools.

        Graphic

        Stalls sell single Dunhill, Embassy, Safari and other BAT cigarette sticks, costing around 4p (5 cents) each, alongside sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks. The vendors split the packets of 20 manufactured by BAT. They are targeting children, said Samuel Ochieng, chief executive of the Consumer Information Network. They mix cigarettes with candies and sell along the school paths.

        BAT said that its products were for adult smokers only and that it would much prefer that stalls sold whole packets rather than single sticks, given our investment in the brands and the fact there are clear health warnings on the packs.

        Across the world, we have very strict rules regarding not selling our products to retailers located near schools. BAT Kenya provides support to many of these independent vendors, including providing stalls painted in non-corporate colours, and providing youth smoking prevention and health warnings messages. We also educate vendors to ensure they do not sell tobacco products near schools.

        Links with politicians

        Cigarettes
        Cigarettes on sale (alongside sweets) in Nairobi, Kenya. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

        The Kenya case, expected to be heard after the elections on 8 August, is seen as critical for the continent. If the government loses, other countries will have less appetite for the long and expensive fight against the wealthy tobacco industry.

        BAT has around 70% of the Kenyan market; its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind, has joined in the legal action against the government.

        Concerns have been raised about links between politicians and the tobacco companies. There are allegations of some of them having been bribed in the past, said Joel Gitali, chief executive of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance.

        BAT whistleblower Paul Hopkins, who worked in Africa for BAT for 13 years, told a British newspaper he paid bribes on the companys behalf to the Kenya Revenue Authority for access to information BAT could use against its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind. Hopkins has also alleged links between certain prominent opposition Kenyan politicians and two tobacco companies, BAT Kenya and Mastermind. Hopkins, who says he alerted BAT to the documents before the company made him redundant, claimed BAT Kenya paid bribes to government officials in Burundi, Rwanda and the Comoros Islands to undermine tobacco control regulations. Gitali is concerned about the outcome of the election: If the opposition takes over government we shall be deeply in the hands of the tobacco companies.

        BAT denies any wrongdoing. A spokesperson said: We will not tolerate improper conduct in our business anywhere in the world and take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously. We are investigating, through external legal advisors, allegations of misconduct and are liaising with the Serious Fraud Office and other relevant authorities.

        We grow up dreaming we can be one of them

        The
        The headquarters and factory of British American Tobacco in Nairobi, Kenya. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

        Tih Ntiabang, regional coordinator for Africa of the Framework Convention Alliance NGOs that support the WHO treaty said the tobacco companies had become bolder. In the past it used to be invisible interference, but today it is so shameful that it is so visible and they are openly opposing public health treaties like the case in Kenya at the moment Today they boldly go to court to oppose public health policy. Every single government is highly interested in economic growth. They [the tobacco companies] know they have this economic power. The budget of tobacco companies like BAT could be as much as the whole budget of the Africa region.

        Our health systems are not really well organised. Our policy makers cant see clearly what are the health costs of inaction on tobacco control because our health system is not very good. It puts the tobacco industry at an advantage on public health.

        The sale across the whole of Africa of single cigarette sticks was a serious problem because it enabled children to buy them. They are extremely affordable. Young teenagers are able to purchase a cigarette. You dont need 1 for a pack of 20, he said.

        There are fears the number of deaths and illnesses in Africa from tobacco could rise dramatically

        BAT has a reputation in Africa as an employer offering steady and well-paid jobs, said Ntiabang, based in Cameroon. When I was about 10, I was always dreaming I could work for BAT. They have always painted themselves as a responsible company a dream company to work for. All the staff are well-off. The young people think I want to work for BAT. They promote a lot of events and make their name appear to young people. We grow up dreaming we can be one of them.

        In Uganda in 2014, BAT managing director, Jonathan DSouza, sent a 13-page detailed attack on the tobacco control bill, then going through parliament, to the chair of the governments health committee.

        BAT was contracting with 18,000 farmers and paid them 61bn Ugandan shillings for 16.8m kg of tobacco in 2013, said the letter. The economy has benefited significantly from BAT Ugandas investments, it said. This has helped to alleviate poverty and improve welfare in urban and rural areas, it says.

        BAT Uganda (BATU) agreed tobacco should be regulated while respecting the informed choices and rights of adults who choose to smoke and the legal rights of a legal industry. But it cited 11 areas of concern, claiming there is no evidence to support a ban on tobacco displays in shops, that large graphic health warnings on packs are ineffective, that proposals on bans on smoking in public places were too broad and that prohibiting smoking under the age of 21 was unreasonable, since at 18 young people are adults and can make up their own mind.

        Documents made public by the University of Bath show that BATU had another concern: the ban on the sale of cheap single cigarettes. Adults should be free to purchase what they can afford, says an internal leaked paper. BATU also took action against the MP who sponsored the bill. A letter informed him that the company would no longer be contracting with the 709 tobacco farmers in his region. There is evidence that the company also lobbied other MPs with tobacco farmers in their constituencies.

        The Tobacco Control Act became law in 2015, and in November last year, BAT sued. Many people choose to smoke, said an affidavit to the court from managing director Dadson Mwaura and it was important to ensure regulation did not lead to unintended consequences that risk an untaxed and unrestrained illegitimate trade in tobacco products. BATUs legal product contributed to the Ugandan economy in many dimensions.

        A
        A vendor in Nairobis Uhuru Park sells single stick cigarettes. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

        The Guardian has seen letters showing that at least six other African governments have faced challenges from the multinational tobacco companies over their attempts to control smoking.

        • Democratic Republic of Congo: Letter to the president sent in April 2017 by the Fdration des Entreprises du Congo (chamber of commerce) on behalf of the tobacco industry, listing 29 concerns with the proposed tobacco control regulations, which they claim violate the constitution, international agreements and domestic law.
        • Burkina Faso: Letter sent in January 2016 to the minister of health from Imperial Tobacco, warning that restrictions on labeling and packaging cigarettes risks economic and social damage to the country. Previous letter sent to the prime minister from the US Chambers of Commerce in December 2013 warning that large health warnings and plain packaging could put Burkina Faso in breach of its obligations to the World Trade Organisation.
        • Ethiopia: Letter sent in February 2015 to the ministers of health and science and technology by Philip Morris International, claiming that the governments tobacco directive banning trademarks, brands and added ingredients to tobacco breached existing laws and would penalise all consumer retailers.
        • Togo: Letter to the minister of commerce in June 2012 from Philip Morris International opposing plain packaging, which risks having damaging consequences on Togos economy and business environment.
        • Gabon: Letter from BAT arguing that there is no evidence that plain packaging reduces smoking, citing the Deloitte report of 2011, alleging its introduction would put Gabon in breach of trade agreements and promote smuggling.
        • Namibia: Letter to the minister of health from BAT, warning that planned tobacco controls will have a massive impact on the Namibian economy at large.

        Bintou Camara, director of Africa programs at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said: British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International and other multinational tobacco companies have set their sights on Africa as a growth market for their deadly products. Throughout Africa, tobacco companies have tried to intimidate countries from taking effective action to reduce tobacco use, the worlds leading cause of preventable death, he added.

        Governments in Africa should know that they can and should move forward with measures aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco use and that they do so with the support of the many governments and leaders around the world that have taken strong action to protect public health.

        Cloe Franko, senior international organizer at Corporate Accountability International, said: In Kenya, as in other parts of the world, the industry has resorted to frivolous litigation, aggressive interference … to thwart, block, and delay lifesaving policies. BATs actions are emblematic of a desperate industry grasping to maintain its hold over countries and continue to peddle its deadly product.

        Philip Morris said it is regularly engaged in discussions with governments. We are approached by or approach public authorities to discuss a range of issues that are important for them and for us, such as taxation, international trade, and tobacco control policies. Participating in discussions and sharing points of view is a basic principle of public policy making and does not stop governments from taking decisions and enacting the laws they deem best. It said that it supports effective regulation, including laws banning sales to minors, mandatory health warnings, and advertising restrictions.

        Imperial Tobacco said it sold its brands where theres a legitimate and existing demand for tobacco and take the same responsible approach in Africa as we do in any Western territory. A spokesman said it supported reasonable, proportionate and evidence-based regulation of tobacco, including health warnings that are consistent with global public health messages. But, it said, Imperial would continue to make our views known on excessive, unnecessary and often counter-productive regulatory proposals.

        Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/12/big-tobacco-dirty-war-africa-market

        Curatio promises to matchmake people living with the same health conditions

        Curatio is a way to manage a disease and talk to people going through the same thing.
        Image: Shutterstock / 279photo Studio

        Anyone going through a health crisis or living with a chronic condition is familiar with the same struggle: you want to find people who understand what’s going on in your life, but to find those people, you’d probably have to share information about your health more widely than is comfortable.

        Curatio is trying to solve both those problems. The social app promises to be a combination of Tinder and Facebook for healthand a way to combat the isolation and stigma that can come with health issues.

        “It’s a pain point every single person has at some point in their lives, for themselves or for a family member or friend,” said Curatio founder Lynda Ganzert-Brown. “If you’re mid-stride in your career, you’re probably not going to go onto a social media platform and say, ‘I just got diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.’ It’s not the same type of social experience as looking for a restaurant recommendation.”

        Curatio first launched through a startup competition in 2013 and revamped in past weeks to serve 10 different health communities. The app acts like an online dating app to connect you with people who have similar health experiences, down to exactly which symptoms they’re experiencing. Then, anyone you connect with becomes part of your network to create a news feed that’s like a HIPAA-compliant version of Facebook.

        “It’s a pain point every single person has at some point in their lives.”

        Since health information is involved, privacy is key. Anything you share only goes to people you’ve approved to see it. And you can’t be totally anonymous, but you don’t have to use your real identity.

        There’s also an AI concierge to answer questions about health information and a section for personal disease management and health tracking. Curatio also licenses its technology to other health providers and communities for their own social tools.

        So there are a lot of moving parts, especially when you consider that there are various different communities on Curatio: menopause, traumatic brain injury, heart disease, the blood disease Thalassemia, Crohn’s disease and colitis, Type 1 diabetes, and a community for caregivers.

        Image: CUratio

        Shirley Weir founded the Facebook group Menopause Chicks, which transferred their community over to Curatio.

        “If somebody comes to my community [on Facebook] and says, ‘I’m losing hair,’ I can give them information on experts or books,” Weir said. “It’s different to say, ‘Talk to these four women who also experienced hair loss.'”

        Curatio users can be members of multiple communities. Many people in its menopause community, whose average members are women in their late 40s, are often dealing with other health conditions, especially as caregivers, Weir said.

        Ganzert-Brown declined to provider user metrics, but said Curatio users are now in 31 countries.

        The health tech space is hot right noweven Apple is devoting significant resources to healthcare apps.

        By putting disease management tools in the same place as a specialized version of Facebook where everyone understands what you’re going through, Curatio hopes to cut through the noise.

        Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/08/curatio-health-app-tinder/