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Governments To Curb Political Influence Of Major Corporations To Tackle Several Global Crisis: Study

This is the final vindication for those of us who have warned about the slippery slope of regulation

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Obesity
An overweight woman sits on a chair in Times Square in New York, May 8, 2012. (Representational image). VOA

To defeat the intertwined pandemics of obesity, hunger and climate change, governments must curb the political influence of major corporations, said a major report Monday calling for a ‘global treaty’ similar to one for tobacco control.

But this will not happen unless ordinary citizens demand a “radical rethink” of the relationship between policymakers and business, nearly four dozen experts from The Lancet Commission on Obesity concluded.

“Powerful opposition from vested interests, lack of political leadership, and insufficient societal demand for change are preventing action,” they said in a statement.

Nearly a billion people are hungry and another two billion are eating too much of the wrong foods, causing epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Children, Hunger
A severely malnourished boy rests on a hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen. VOA

Unhealthy diets account for up to 11 million premature deaths every year, according to the most recent Global Disease Burden report.

“Malnutrition in all its forms — including undernutrition and obesity — is by far the biggest cause of ill-health and premature death globally,” said Commission co-chair Boyd Swinburn, a professor at the University of Aukland.

“Both undernutrition and obesity are expected to be made significantly worse by climate change.”

The way in which food is currently produced, distributed and consumed not only fuels the hunger and obesity pandemics, it also generates 25 to 30 percent of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Cattle production alone accounts for more than have of those gases, in the form of methane-laden flatulence and CO2 when forests — especially in Brazil — are cleared to accommodate livestock.

Climate, emissions
– Greenpeace activists wear white morphsuits as they stage an action against particulate matter and health burden caused by diesel exhaust in Stuttgart, southern Germany. VOA

A transport system dominated by cars contributes another 15 to 25 percent of emissions, and supports a sedentary lifestyle.

– Triple pandemic –

“Underpinning all of these are weak political governance, the unchallenging economic pursuit of GPD growth, and the powerful commercial engineering of overconsumption,” the report said.

“Undernutrition is declining too slowly to meet global targets, no country has reversed its obesity epidemic, and comprehensive policy responses to the threat of climate change have barely begun.”

Despite 30 years of warnings from science about the dire impacts of global warming, CO2 emissions hit record levels in 2017 and again last year.

Because all these problems are interwoven, the answers must be too, the researchers emphasized.

BMI, Asthma Risk
High BMI in early life is linked to asthma risk later: Study. Pixabay

“Joining three pandemics” — hunger, obesity, climate — “together as ‘The Global Syndemic’ allows us to consider common drivers and shared solutions.”

Another Lancet Commission report published last week calling for a dramatic shift in global diet to improve health and avoid “catastrophic” damage to the planet.

“Until now, undernutrition and obesity have been seen as polar opposites of either too few or too many calories,” said Swinburn.

“In reality, they are both driven by the same unhealthy, inequitable food systems, underpinned by the same political economy.”

The report calls for a Framework Convention on Food Systems — similar to global conventions for tobacco control and climate change — to restrict the influence of the food industry.

Cold drinks can cause tooth decay, obesity, etc. Wikimedia Commons
Cold drinks can cause tooth decay, obesity, etc. Wikimedia Commons

– How we eat, live, move –

The experts also argue that economic incentives must be overhauled.

Some five trillion dollars (4.4 trillion euros) in government subsidies for fossil fuels and large-scale agribusiness should be rechanneled toward “sustainable, healthy and environmentally friendly activities,” they said.

To sharply reduce red meat consumption, for example, the report favors high taxes, abolishing subsidies, along with transparent health and environment labeling.

In addition, they favor the creation of a one billion dollar philanthropic fund to support grassroots action.

“Tackling ‘The Global Syndemic’ requires an urgent rethink of how we eat, live, consume and move,” said Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet.

The two Lancet reports are not the only urgent appeal from science in recent months. In October, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change likewise called for an economic and social “paradigm shift” to avoid global chaos.

Reaction to the Lancet recommendations has been sharply divided. Health advocates and climate experts hailed its sweeping call for deep change.

U.N. Climate Conference
In this Dec. 11, 2018 photo a participant in U.N. climate conference walks by a photo of a satellite in Katowice, Poland. VOA

“For too long we have been day-dreaming our way to a diseased future,” said Katie Dain, CEO of the Noncommunicable Disease Alliance.

“A food system that secures a better diet for this and the immediate next generations will save millions of lives and, at the same time, help save the planet.”

Industry representatives and libertarians slammed the findings as overwrought and an assault on free choice.

Also Read: Eliminate World Hunger By Selling Burgers

“This is the final vindication for those of us who have warned about the slippery slope of regulation,” said Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs.

“Nanny-state zealots are no longer hiding their intention to use the anti-tobacco blueprint to control other areas of our lives.” (VOA)

Next Story

Governments Around The World are Learning to Confuse Dissidents on Social Media

The researchers, who published their findings in a recent issue of Political Science Research and Methods, specifically examined social media from both the Venezuela regime and its opposition

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Social Media
The regime also seemed to develop a more sophisticated approach to using hashtags on Social Media. The regime used long hashtags, as opposed to the shorter hashtags that are more commonly used, to promote distraction among the protest groups. Pixabay

Governments the world over are learning new tactics to quash dissent on various Social Media platforms, responding with tweets designed to distract and confuse like longer hashtags, according to a team of political scientists.

In a study of Twitter interactions during Venezuela’s 2014 protests, in which citizens voiced opposition to government leaders and called for improvements to their standard of living, the tweets of the protesters focused mainly on the protest itself, while the tweets issued by the ruling regime covered more diverse topics.

This could mean that regimes are growing more savvy in their use of social media to help suppress mass movements.

“When we started doing this study there had been a lot of optimism about the capacity of social media to produce revolutions throughout the world, like Arab Spring and the Color Revolutions in Europe,” said Kevin Munger, assistant professor of political science and social data analytics, Penn State.

“But it seems like, in hindsight, this was the result of short-term disequilibrium between the capacity of the masses to use this technology and the limited capacity of these elites to use it.”

A lot of these elites may have not been keeping up with modern communication technology and got caught unawares.

So, for that short period of time, social media did produce better outcomes for revolutions and mass movements.

The researchers, who published their findings in a recent issue of Political Science Research and Methods, specifically examined social media from both the Venezuela regime and its opposition.

Social Media
Governments the world over are learning new tactics to quash dissent on various Social Media platforms, responding with tweets designed to distract and confuse like longer hashtags, according to a team of political scientists. Pixabay

Following the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in early 2013, Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s vice-president, won a special election.

After his election, mass protests erupted related to economic decline and increased crime.

In their analysis, the researchers noted that the regime abruptly shifted its Twitter strategy after protests swept across the country.

The topics of the regime’s tweets became even more diverse than usual — including such topics as a tree-planting event — and often did not address the protests at all.

As the protests continued, however, the researchers said that the opposition also became less focused, which the researchers suggest may have been a reaction to the regime’s social media strategy.

The way that attention works on social networks offers a glimpse into why the strategy to distract citizens might be effective, added Munger, who worked on the study while a doctoral student in politics at New York University.

Social Media
Regimes are growing more savvy in their use of Social Media to help suppress mass movements. Pixabay

“To have effective protests, you need to have a ton of people coordinated on a single message, so spreading other narratives disrupts that process of coordination,” said Munger.

“Being able to spread doubt is effective. You don’t have to get people to love your regime, you just need people to less convinced of the single narrative.”

ALSO READ: President of Egypt Calls for Collective Action Against Countries Supporting Terrorism

The regime also seemed to develop a more sophisticated approach to using hashtags. The regime used long hashtags, as opposed to the shorter hashtags that are more commonly used, to promote distraction among the protest groups. (IANS)