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Month: August 2018 (page 1 of 7)

England looking to ban sales of energy drinks to children due to links with childhood obesity and poor classroom behavior

Many supermarkets and other major retailers in Britain already decline to sell energy drinks to children. But they remain readily available from smaller stores and vending machines, and some brands are sold for as little as a pound, about $1.30.

The government said that one 250-milliliter can of energy drink often contained around 80 milligrams of caffeine — the equivalent of a cup of coffee or nearly three cans of cola — and up to 60 percent more sugar on average than regular soft drinks. It said excessive consumption among children had been linked to headaches, sleep problems, stomach aches and hyperactivity.

The plan would ban the sale to children of energy drinks that contain more than 150 milligrams of caffeine per liter.

More at the NY Times (paywall), BBC

UK Government Statement

 

Skim reading discourages critical analysis, making us more likely to accept false information

We are not taking time to think about and examine what we are reading. We are hardly taking the time to read past the headlines. It’s having a dramatic effect on us.

We need to cultivate the capacity for deeper forms of thought and critical analysis. To do otherwise is to become susceptible to other people’s views and wishes. This is how we become less self-reliant and less able to discern what is true and what is not.

Without critical thought, whomever screams the loudest will therefore get our attention. Sleazy salespeople and fraudsters will successfully sell us snake oil and empty promises.

We do not err as a society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we disrupt or diminish while innovating. In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures, society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit, what our children and older students are not developing, and what we can do about it.

We know from research that the reading circuit is not given to human beings through a genetic blueprint like vision or language; it needs an environment to develop. Further, it will adapt to that environment’s requirements – from different writing systems to the characteristics of whatever medium is used. If the dominant medium advantages processes that are fast, multi-task oriented and well-suited for large volumes of information, like the current digital medium, so will the reading circuit. As UCLA psychologist Patricia Greenfield writes, the result is that less attention and time will be allocated to slower, time-demanding deep reading processes, like inference, critical analysis and empathy, all of which are indispensable to learning at any age.

Read more, please, at The Guardian

US companies with 50+ employees seeking to do business with Microsoft will need to offer 12 weeks paid parental leave to their employees

The new policy will be phased in over the next 12 months and is believed to affect thousands of workers.

To qualify for contracts, companies will have to provide at least 12 weeks of paid time off, up to $1,000 a week, at the birth or adoption of a new child. The policy will apply to companies with 50 or more workers who perform “substantial” work for Microsoft. The requirement will be phased in over the next 12 months and is expected to impact thousands of workers.

“Companies like us are in a unique position to create positive impact within our broader ecosystem,” said Microsoft General Counsel Dev Stahlkopf. “We’d like to focus our resources on companies that share our values.”

Only 13 percent of private-sector workers in the U.S. get paid parental leave. As Microsoft improves its own benefits, the company has also been trying to raise the standards for its subcontractors.

More at Bloomberg (paywall)

More at Microsoft

Low carb diets are linked to premature death

Yet another study is showing low carbohydrate diets, such as the fashionable paleo and keto variety, may be dangerous and could lead to increased risk of dying of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

A healthy and balanced diet includes foods such as fruits, vegetables, bread, pasta, and potatoes.

Popular weight loss diets, that some may view as beneficial in the short-term, may come with a hefty long-term price tag.

“One thing is sure,” Dr Maciej Banach, professor of medicine at Medical University of Lodz, Poland, told Newsweek: “we should avoid [low carbohydrate diets].”

Banach explained low carbohydrate diets have been regarded as beneficial for our health in the past, but based on his team’s research it is now “clear” that is not true. And even though such regimes aid weight loss, the public should be “very careful” when following very restrictive diets, particularly those that feature no carbohydrates for long periods of time. Continue reading

Banned drugs are in your meat

A Consumer Reports investigation states the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) own research shows that drugs prohibited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are being detected in U.S. produced beef, poultry, and pork. And the USDA, which is responsible for food safety in the USA, is not doing anything about it.

Overfishing, hunting, and pollution are putting pressure on Puffins, but climate change may prove to be the biggest challenge.

Puffins are in trouble.

The birds have been in precipitous decline, especially since the 2000s, both in Iceland and across many of their Atlantic habitats. The potential culprits are many: fickle prey, overfishing, pollution. Scientists say that climate change is another underlying factor that is diminishing food supplies and is likely to become more important over time. And the fact that puffins are tasty, and thus hunted as game here, hardly helps.

Read more at the NY Times (paywall)

Goats prefer happy faces

Goats can differentiate between human facial expressions and prefer to interact with happy people, according to a new study led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London.

The study, which provides the first evidence of how goats read human emotional expressions, implies that the ability of animals to perceive human facial cues is not limited to those with a long history of domestication as companions, such as dogs and horses.

Writing in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the team describe how 20 goats interacted with images of positive (happy) and negative (angry) human facial expressions and found that they preferred to look and interact with the happy faces.

Read more at Phys.org

Miami’s drinking water is under threat

Barring a stupendous reversal in greenhouse gas emissions, the rising Atlantic will cover much of Miami by the end of this century. The economic effects will be devastating: Zillow Inc. estimates that six feet of sea-level rise would put a quarter of Miami’s homes underwater, rendering $200 billion of real estate worthless. But global warming poses a more immediate danger: The permeability that makes the aquifer so easily accessible also makes it vulnerable. “It’s very easy to contaminate our aquifer,” says Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper, a local environmental protection group. And the consequences could be sweeping. “Drinking water supply is always an existential question.”

County officials agree with her. “The minute the world thinks your water supply is in danger, you’ve got a problem,” says James Murley, chief resilience officer for Miami-Dade, although he adds that the county’s water system remains “one of the best” in the U.S. The questions hanging over Miami and the rest of Southeast Florida are how long it can keep its water safe, and at what cost. As the region struggles with more visible climate problems, including increasingly frequent flooding and this summer’s toxic algae blooms, the risks to the aquifer grow, and they’re all the more insidious for being out of sight. If Miami-Dade can’t protect its water supply, whether it can handle the other manifestations of climate change won’t matter.

More at Bloomberg

The cost of being cool: Air-conditioners do great good, but at a high environmental cost

There are many benefits to staying cool. Including saving lives. But it doesn’t come without a price.

At the moment, only 8% of the 3bn people in the tropics have air-conditioning, compared with over 90% of households in America and Japan. But eventually, it will be near universal because so many trends are converging behind its spread: ageing, since old people are more vulnerable to heat stroke; urbanisation, since fields cannot be air-conditioned but offices and factories must be; and economic growth, since, after mobile phones, the middle class in emerging markets want fans or air-conditioners next. Even the proliferation of skyscrapers in the developing world’s megacities encourages air-conditioners. Because tall buildings have different air pressures at top and bottom, they usually have to be sealed, and cooled in summer. Shopping malls, open-plan offices and data-processing centres are all inconceivable without air-conditioning.

Environmentalists fret about this. An article in the Washington Post excoriated “the deluded world of air-conditioning”. Another in the New York Times castigated buildings so cold in summer that “I could preserve dead bodies in the office.” Yet air-conditioning makes people, literally, healthier, wealthier and wiser. A study by Tord Kjellstrom of Australian National University found that, in South-East Asia, people without cooling could not work during 15-20% of working hours. It was too darned hot. Solomon Hsiang of the University of California, Berkeley calculated that, in the Caribbean and Central America, GDP falls by 1% for each degree above 26°C. In the tropics, cooling boosts productivity.

The same goes for learning. A recent study in PLOS Medicine, a weekly journal, by Jose Guillermo Cedeño of Harvard University, followed two groups of college students in Boston during the summer of 2016. Those living in air-conditioned rooms did significantly better in a variety of cognitive tests than their peers in uncooled digs. Studies in Denmark showed that air-conditioning schools improved children’s ability to learn mathematics and languages.

More at The Economist

A majority of U.S. teens are voluntarily limiting smartphone and social media use

Lets hope this trend has legs.

According to a new study released by Pew Research Center this week, U.S. teens are now taking steps to limit themselves from overuse of their phone and its addictive apps, like social media. A majority, 54% of teens, said they spend too much time on their phone, and nearly that many – 52% – said they are trying to limit their phone use in various ways.

In addition, 57% say they’re trying to limit social media usage and 58% are trying to limit video games.

More at TechCrunchPew Research Center

Related: Meet the teens who refuse to use social media – The Guardian

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