Month: October 2020

Can things invent things? Do algorithms dream of owning patents?

In a new world of AI, and in light of AI policy being developed in a myriad of areas, we must not forget to determine how to reward and encourage innovation that derives from AI sources….

The first patent in human history was awarded in England in 1331, and in the 15th Century, many European nations began to use them, such as Florence who granted a patent for a marble carrying barge. The inventor of this vehicle was the first owner of an idea. In the 18th Century led by the United Kingdom and soon others such as the United States what we now understand as the patent system formed, and gave inventors incentives to disclose to the world their inventions in return for a monopoly period.

The ever-evolving legal framework governing the protection of inventions has played a crucial role in developing medicines and novel technologies across sectors. Modern patent law permits software to be patented. This has led to a revolution in innovation and catapulted humanity into the age of the knowledge society. The next frontier is to determine whether the owner of software or author of an algorithm can own the inventions by those electronic products.

Machine learning and the broader term artificial intelligence (AI) are the hopefuls of tech companies striving for more automation, tailored solutions, and faster research. While companies invest nearly 50 billion US Dollars on AI, there’s still a lack of clarity on how to protect the fruits of their inventions. Current patent law states fairly straightforward that inventions can only be made by humans. Bruce Love of the Financial Times describes this as ‘Things cannot invent things.’

Current patent law does not allow corporations to be the inventors of things but allows them to own patents. The challenge of AI inventing new ideas, technologies, and even drugs is that international patent law did not foresee that anyone but humans would have the actual cognitive capacity to create something inventive, and only humans would need recognition in a system designed to reward such ingenuity.

Recently, this focus on the human inventor has been tested: In 2018, several patent applications were filed in the name of Dr. Stephen Thaler for inventions purportedly invented by an artificial intelligence (AI) named DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience). On the grounds that DABUS independently conceived of the inventions, and that no human inventor could be identified, the applications list DABUS as the sole inventor.

Formal inventorship requirements vary across different jurisdictions, but the USPTO, the EPO and the UK IPO have all rejected the possibility that DABUS can be named as an inventor on the patent applications, reaching the common consensus that, under current legislation, an inventor must be a ‘natural person’ for the purposes of a patent application.

The question of whether an AI can be an inventor is not merely academic, but part of a broader point about AI inventions and their commercial reality. Being an inventor conveys certain legal rights, and is integral to the concept of patent ownership.  Under the UK Patents Act 1977, the right to grant of a patent belongs first to the inventor.  An AI has no legal personality and if it invents then no one has a right to the invention as a patent.

Whether the law requires an update is a question that has garnered increasing attention in with the UK government opening a consultation on the matter in September 2020, and a third WIPO session on Intellectual Property and AI scheduled for November 2020.  The level of interest is understandable when we consider the history of patents, the public policy rationale and the ‘patent bargain,’ which grants a 20-year patent monopoly to an inventor for two reasons: (i) To have inventors share what they learn, so others coming after them can build on their ideas; and (ii) to reward investment in research.  As we have seen, the starting place for the grant of a patent has so far been the human inventor, the ‘natural person,’ albeit a company can then own and exploit the patent.  However, as the DABUS cases show, the questions we need to be asking now are: Does it matter if there is no human inventor?  What does it mean for investment and transparent sharing of learning, if a company cannot obtain a patent because the inventor was an AI? 

These questions may not seem that pressing at the moment, so far there has been no outcry that businesses are failing to obtain patents because of arguments concerning AI inventors.  However, an inability for a company to see a return on its investment in research is likely to change the business interest in these questions quickly. If this happens, policy makers will have to consider the patent bargain, and grapple with questions such as: If patents for AI inventions generated by AI are not available, will businesses stop publicly sharing their knowledge and/or struggle to obtain investment, and is that a problem? Does the cost of development of using AI warrant patent protection, or are inventions generated by is AI based on a comparatively cheap form of research that shouldn’t be afforded the same protection as other inventions? Is financial investment in research worthy of policy protection at all, or is it the human endeavour which we seek to reward? In particular, policy makers will have to decide what the purpose of the patent system is and whether, on balance, there is a sufficient policy reason to change it.

With humanity being at the brink of a new age and about to unleash a massive acceleration in our innovative potential thanks to artificial intelligence development, we must ask if it is time to update our patent laws. Without reflecting the fact that machines and algorithms have inventive capabilities we might miss out on investments and innovations that can elevate all of mankind. Think of algorithms that might only need days to find a vaccine for a new virus, smarter law enforcement methods, or programs that help us understand interstellar travel better than we could have ever imagined.  

In a new world of AI, and in light of AI policy being developed in a myriad of areas, we must not forget to determine how to reward and encourage innovation that derives from AI sources.

Originally published here.

Vaping is a Gateway OUT of Smoking, Study Finds

E-cigarettes help adults quit smoking and are not a gateway to tobaccco for non-smokers, according to a study published earlier today.

The report, from the World Vapers’ Alliance and the Consumer Choice Centre, also found that youth smoking rates are at an all-time low.

The findings are at odds with the frequently used argument that e-cigarettes encourage non-smoking teens to take up the habit. 

World Vapers’ Alliance director, Michael Landl, said:

“The most common arguments against vaping – painting vaping as a gateway to smoking – fail the test of reality and science.

“Vaping helps adult smokers to quit and youth use of e-cigarettes is rare, particularly by non-smokers.”

The researchers looked at smoking rates in the UK, where public health authorities support vaping as a smoking cessation method.

Here, the smoking rate is at a record low with the vast majority of vapers being ex-smokers and dual users.

Image source: Consumer Choice Centre

Report co-author Maria Chaplia said that most anti-vaping arguments ignored the fact that e-cigarettes were targeted at adult smokers.

Chaplia noted that e-cigarettes were comparable to sugar substitutes that help people reduce sugar intake.

She said:

“We don’t blame sugar substitutes for increased sugar consumption, yet doing so for e-cigarettes seems to be acceptable.” 

The main findings of the report include:

  • That nicotine is not the issue, the toxins in cigarettes are and that almost all the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke.
  • E-cigarettes help adults to quit smoking and are twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapies
  • Vaping does not lead to smoking among teenagers as their smoking rate is at an all time low.
  • Youth use of e-cigarettes is rare.
  • Banning flavours won’t solve the problem: restrictions and bans on flavours will significantly limit the usefulness of vaping as a cessation tool.

Landl concluded:

“Policymakers cannot ignore the facts any longer.

“The scaremongering about vaping needs to stop and it should be endorsed as an effective tool to help smokers move to a safer alternative by public health agencies.”

Originally published here.

Le sigarette elettroniche sono una porta di uscita dal fumo

Un nuovo paper del Consumer Choice Center affronta il tema dell’effetto gateway ed esorta la politica a promuovere l’e-cigarette.

Si intitola “Vaping and the gateway myth” (lo svapo e il mito dell’effetto gateway) il nuovo Policy paper appena pubblicato dal Consumer choice center, l’organizzazione americana (ma con sede anche in Europa) ormai sempre più attiva nella difesa della sigaretta elettronica. A firmare il documento sono Maria Chaplia, European affairs associate del Ccc, e Michael Landl, direttore della rete di associazioni di consumatori World Vapers’Alliance, fondata lo scorso maggio proprio grazie a un contributo iniziale dell’organizzazione. Scopo del paper è quello di fornire una base di argomenti che dimostri come la sigaretta elettronica sia uno strumento per abbandonare il fumo e non per arrivarci.

Il lavoro cita numerosi studi condotti in questi anni sulla materia, cercando di mettere alcuni punti fermi. Il primo riguarda la nicotina. “La nicotina non è il problema, lo sono le sostanze tossiche nelle sigarette”, esemplificano gli autori, sottolineando come la nicotina venga usata anche nelle terapie sostitutive convenzionali e non aumenti il rischio di malattie gravi (come infarto o ictus) o la mortalità. Ma, sottolineano gli autori, “l’e-cigarette è due volte più efficace dei prodotti sostitutivi a base di nicotina per smettere di fumare”, come dimostrato da studi scientifici e recentemente confermato dalla revisione Cochrane. “Il vaping aiuta i fumatori adulti a smettere – si afferma nel paper – ad ogni aumento di un punto percentuale nell’uso della sigaretta elettronica corrisponde un aumento dello 0,6% delle cessazioni del fumo”.
Per quanto riguarda il presunto effetto gateway per i minori, gli autori riportano una serie di studi scientifici che non sono riusciti a dimostrarla. Anzi, la teoria che i minori inizierebbero a fumare grazie all’uso della sigaretta elettronica, si rivela una suggestione che non regge il vaglio della prova. Secondo gli autori, che citano anche le rilevazioni di Action on smoking per il Regno Unito, “l’uso della sigaretta elettronica fra i minori è raro e per la maggior parte gli utilizzatori sono fumatori o ex fumatori”.

Il terzo aspetto affrontato nel rapporto riguarda gli aromi nei liquidi per sigarette elettroniche. Alcuni Paesi li vietano o vogliono farlo, sostenendo che potrebbero attirare i non fumatori e introdurli, alla fine, al tabacco fumato. “Una tesi – dicono Chaplia e Landl – che non è in linea con l’esperienza dei consumatori”. Il Consumer choice center ha già affrontato approfonditamente l’argomento in un precedente documento, sostenendo che l’eliminazione degli aromi spingerebbe i vaper a tornare al fumo o a rivolgersi al mercato illegale, con tutti i pericoli che questo comporta. Numerose indagini indicano che oltre due terzi dei consumatori utilizzano liquidi con gusti diversi dal tabacco, proprio per discostarsi dal sapore della sigaretta. “Gli aromi – scrivono gli autori – sono una parte fondamentale per smettere di fumare con la sigaretta elettronica: i vaper che usano gli aromi hanno più del doppio delle probabilità di smettere rispetto a quelli che usano liquidi al gusto di tabacco”.
Il documento si conclude con un appello ai legislatori, affinché abbraccino la strategia della riduzione del danno e promuovano la sigaretta elettronica come “uno strumento efficace per passare da una alternativa più sicura per il consumo di nicotina e poi per smettere del tutto, se lo desiderano”. Per farlo, concludono Chaplia e Landl, è necessario “garantire agli adulti l’accesso ai prodotti del vaping, assicurare la disponibilità e la varietà e permettere la pubblicità delle sigarette elettroniche sulla stampa, la televisione e la radio. Il fine è quello di informare i fumatori del potenziale di riduzione del danno del vaping, ridurre il commercio illegale e impedire che i minori si rivolgano al mercato nero e inino così a svapare”.

Originally published here.

How to feed 11 billion people?

If the EU wants to fight global hunger, it needs to stop food elitism, writes the Consumer Choice Centre’s Fred Roeder.

By 2070 the world will be populated by approximately 10.5 billion people. This means that we will need to be able to feed a further three billion people. Fortunately, technological advances in agriculture and technology have already helped us provide food for an extra 5.5 billion people in the last century compared to the two billion that populated the earth in 1920. Stanford University estimates that if we were to still use the farming technology of 1960, we would need additional farming land equivalent to the size of Russia to earn the same yields as current technology.

Unfortunately, the current political narrative in one of the world’s wealthiest regions seems to ignore the challenges ahead of us and wants us to turn to less efficient farming. The European Union’s Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy sets out to create a more sustainable food system by the end of this decade. However, looking at the current proposals, it is worrisome that this new policy framework will achieve the opposite of sustainable farming and could lead not just Europe but the entire world to a food crisis with massive geopolitical ramifications.

“Stanford University estimates that if we were to still use the farming technology of 1960, we would need additional farming land equivalent to the size of Russia to earn the same yields as current technology”

The EU plans to increase the share of organic farming as a total of agricultural production from the current level of 7.5 percent to 25 percent by 2030. Additionally, they plan to reduce pesticide use by half. At the same time, the F2F strategy does not embrace new technologies that allow farmers to achieve the same yields they are able to produce using the current level of pesticides.

More organic farming in Europe means lower yields of EU food production and higher prices for consumers. The shortage in Europe will be likely compensated by additional food imports from other parts of the world. This will lead to a global increase in food prices. For affluent regions of the world such as Europe, this will be rather a nuisance for consumers. But for people already living at the edge of existence and facing hunger, this will have very negative consequences.

In India, home to a fifth of the world’s population, the country’s caste system means that farmers of the lowest caste live and farm on land that is more likely to experience regular flooding, resulting in poor or destroyed rice harvests. However, using gene editing, we can produce rice crops that can submerge underwater for up to two weeks and still provide high yields. Such technologies are a clear game-changer for the poor and hungry and should be embraced. There’s no humanitarian case against them but a strong one for them.

Unfortunately, many critics of pesticides also oppose the use of gene editing. This can result in lower food production in the face of growing demand.

“We indeed all share one planet and we therefore need to have sensible food policies that acknowledge hunger still being a problem for one in ten of us every day”

We all saw the dramatic refugee crisis in 2015, including all the terrible suffering and drowning in the Mediterranean. While the EU’s policies did not trigger this crisis, our future agricultural policies could cause widespread famines in parts of Africa and Asia. We indeed all share one planet and we therefore need to have sensible food policies that acknowledge hunger still being a problem for one in ten of us every day. No one wants to see people forced from their homes because of starvation, but, with just a few adjustments of the EU’s future agricultural policies, we can mitigate many of the negative drivers of poverty and hunger.

The EU’s Farm to Fork strategy needs to take this into account and not jeopardise our ability to feed an ever-growing population.

Originally published here.

How Not to Respond to Alarming Social Media Censorship

Protecting a free and open internet means not using punitive regulations or policies to hamstring social networks because of the scandal of the day.

Call it election interference, censorship, or simple editorializing, but Twitter and Facebook’s throttling of several New York Post articles this week has drawn lots of criticism.

The stories allege that Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, introduced Ukrainian energy adviser Vadym Pozharskyi to his father after receiving a cushy $50,000 a month board seat at the company Burisma. (Other outlets have contested the report).

There is no question that the social networks in question made a bad call. Disabling the link on the various platforms made even more people seek it out, creating a “Streisand Effect” of mass proportions.

But the content of the articles isn’t what really matters.

The reaction to the New York Post report reveals just how much pressure is put on social networks to perform roles far beyond what they were intended for. We want them to simultaneously police speech online, keep the networks free for open discussion, and be mindful of “fake news” that spreads rapidly.

So, it is important to understand why Facebook and Twitter felt they had to censor the story in the first place—and why all of us are actually to blame. For the last several years, campaigners, activists, and politicians have primed us all to accept the byzantine expectations and regulations put on social networks.

From Netflix documentaries such as The Social Dilemma and The Great Hack to the criticisms of “surveillance capitalism,” many voices are calling for further regulation of social media networks.

Some on the Right smirk as Sen. Josh Hawley pens legislation to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act or to ban “infinite scrolling” on social media apps. Meanwhile, some on the Left cheer as technology CEOs are dragged before congressional committees and castigated for “allowing” Trump to win in 2016. 

This week, it was revealed that the New York State Department of Financial Services wants a “dedicated regulator” to oversee social media platforms. Other states will likely follow suit.

But what we’re all too loath to admit is that these firms do what any of us would do when under scrutiny: they pivot, they engage in damage control, and they aim to please those with pitchforks outside their doors. It’s the same whether it’s Black Lives Matter or President Trump.

Facebook has committed to ending all political advertising online (hurting non-profit advocacy groups like mine) and Twitter already implemented a similar policy last year, lauded by political figures such as Hillary Clinton and Andrew Yang.

Of course, when tech giants censor or delete stories that we perceive to advance or hurt our political “team,” we are all up in arms. But protecting a free and open internet means not using punitive regulations or policies to hamstring social networks because of the scandal of the day.

Internet policy remedies dreamed up in Washington, D.C. will almost always end up hurting those of us who don’t have power or deep pockets. It harms the small businesses that use social networks for advertising, and it sets up more roadblocks for ordinary users who simply want to check in with friends and family. 

Big Tech isn’t powerful because it has money, but because it has delivered superior products, those that have left platforms such as AOL, Myspace, and Yahoo in their wake.

Social networks have evolved from places to connect and share information across borders to intellectual and political battlefields where we wage digital wars.

Of course, there should be regulation in some respect. But it should be smart regulation that keeps platforms relatively free and open and provides incentives for future innovation. The powerful platforms of today can afford to comply with cumbersome rules, while new market entrants cannot. 

That means that with every new proposal to roll back Section 230 protections or require quasi-governmental fact-checking functions around Election Day, we’re depriving consumers of choice and entrepreneurs of the ability to innovate.

Of course, targeted censorship of certain accounts or stories on social media networks is bad. But policy “solutions” dreamed up by technologically illiterate bureaucrats and power-hungry politicians would no doubt be even worse. 

Originally published here.

Réglementation sur les créneaux horaires dans l’aviation: la concurrence doit primer

La Commission européenne a encore une fois prolongé la dérogation à la réglementation des créneaux horaires. Applaudie comme étant une aide au secteur, cette dérogation garantit encore une fois l’avantage aux entreprises établies leur permettant de contourner la concurrence. Comment est-ce que le secteur aérien peut s’améliorer si à chaque crise nous dépensons l’argent du contribuable pour le sauver.

Le secteur aérien distribue une partie des créneaux horaires commes des réservations de route. Ceci s’applique de façon générale aux aéroports les plus utilisés. Par exemple, la compagnie X réserve un aller-retour depuis un aéroport et sera contrainte par cette réservation. Cela veut dire que l’avion devra partir, même s’il n’y a pas de passagers, afin de garantir la place de la compagnie sur ce créneau horaire. Ceci provoque ce qu’on a nommé des “ghost flights” (vols fantômes), où les compagnies envoient des avions vides afin de ne pas perdre leur place. Cette réglementation avait été créée afin d’éviter une concentration dans le secteur aérien. A titre d’exemple, une compagnie pourrait réserver tous les créneaux disponibles dans un aéroport spécifique (si elle a le cashflow nécessaire), afin d’empêcher toute concurrence.

Au début de la crise du COVID-19, la Commission européenne avait décidé d’une dérogation à cette réglementation. A court terme, ceci fût une bonne décision. Par contre, une nouvelle extension de la dérogation est un non-sens, car la concurrence, même si amoindrie par la pandémie, existe tout de même. Les créneaux horaires des aéroports sont rares, et c’est pourquoi ils sont si précieux et doivent être utilisés de la manière la plus efficace possible. Bien que conçue  par de nobles objectifs, la politique de la Commission implique que les compagnies aériennes sont les seules propriétaires des créneaux horaires.

La dérogation actuelle à l’obligation de voler n’expirera qu’en mars 2021. De nombreuses associations ont demandé à la Commission de prolonger la dérogation “pour éviter que des avions vides ne volent” ainsi qu’afin que  “les vols soient effectués de la manière la plus optimale possible pour éviter de la pollution inutile”. Toutefois, la prolongation créerait une situation dans laquelle les plus grandes compagnies aériennes auraient la possibilité de monopoliser les créneaux horaires, rendant impossible l’entrée des plus petites. Cela explique pourquoi les compagnies à bas prix comme Wizz Air s’opposent à la prolongation à cette dérogation, la qualifiant d’anticoncurrentielle et que “cela entraverait plutôt que n’aiderait à la reprise de l’industrie aéronautique de l’UE et, par conséquent, des économies européennes”. 

Si la Commission n’a certainement pas l’intention de protéger les grandes compagnies aériennes en renonçant à l’obligation de détenir des créneaux horaires, c’est cependant une conséquence évidente de cette décision. La propriété des créneaux horaires dans les aéroports ne devrait pas être statique. Au contraire, elle devrait faire l’objet d’une rotation constante entre les compagnies aériennes afin de garantir l’attribution la plus efficace possible des installations et d’encourager une utilisation responsable des aéroports. La règle “use-it-or-leave-it” est, en ce sens, juste et équitable, et devrait être maintenue à tout moment.

L’aviation a changé notre vie à bien des égards. Maintenant que les consommateurs de toute l’Europe ont pu goûter à la vie sans voyager, ils souhaiteraient prendre l’avion davantage, et non moins, une fois la pandémie passée. La Commission européenne devrait veiller à ce que les consommateurs aient la possibilité de choisir entre plusieurs compagnies aériennes, en tenant compte de leurs contraintes budgétaires. Pour y parvenir, les grandes compagnies et les compagnies à bas prix doivent être traitées sur un pied d’égalité et se faire concurrence pour les créneaux horaires dans les aéroports.

Le secteur de l’aviation peut être soutenu par l’allégement des taxes locales sur les compagnies aériennes et par des mesures de déréglementation. Cependant, ce genre de mesures doit être équitable pour tous, afin de garantir un maximum de concurrence et par ce biais, de choix pour les consommateurs.

Mengapa Vape Berperasa Itu Penting?

Mengapa Vape Berperasa Itu Penting?

Rokok elektronik, atau yang dikenal dengan nama vape, saat ini sudah menjadi bagian keseharian dari jutaan penduduk dunia, khususnya mereka yang tinggal di wilayah urban. Memang harus diakui, vape memiliki beberapa kelebihan yang tidak ada pada rokok tembakau konvensional yang dibakar. Karena meningkatnya konsumsi vape di seluruh dunia, para produsen dan perusahaan berlomba-lomba mendirikan toko dan menawarkan produk-produk terbaik yang dapat menarik konsumen. Salah satu kelebihan dari rokok elektronik yang tidak disediakan oleh rokok konvensional yang dibakar adalah, ada beragam rasa yang ditawarkan dalam produk-produk vape. Produk-produk vape yang berbahan dasar cairan memberi kesempatan kepada berbagai produsen dan perusahaan untuk berkreasi dan membuat berbagai rasa untuk menarik hati konsumen, seperti buah-buahan strawberry, jeruk, dan sebagainya.Namun, tidak semua pihak menanggapi fenomena penggunaan vape yang semakin meningkat ini dengan positif, khususnya terkait dengan rokok elektronik yang mengandung perasa. Beberapa pemerintahan merespon fenomena tersebut dengan melarang seluruh penjualan produk-produk yang menggandung rasa tertentu.Alasan yang kerap dikemukakan untuk menjustifikasi kebijakan tersebut adalah rokok elektronik yang mengandung perasa dapat semakin menarik anak-anak dan remaja untuk mengkonsumsi produk tersebut. Hal inilah yang ingin dihindari oleh berbagai pemerintahan di dunia melalui kebijakan pelarangan produk-produk vape yang mengandung perasa.Alasan lain yang juga digunakan sebagai pembenaran atas kebijakan tersebut adalah munculnya beberapa kasus penyakit pernafasan yang dianggap oleh aparat penegak hukum disebabkan oleh penggunaan vape. Di Amerika Serikat beberapa bulan lalu misalnya, terjadi beberapa kasus orang-orang yang dilarikan ke rumah sakit karena menderita penyakit pernafasan yang disebabkan oleh penggunaan produk-produk rokok elektronik (CNN, 19/09/2019).Merespon kejadian tersebut, pada bulan Februari 2020 lalu, Presiden Amerika Serikat, Donald Trump, mengeluarkan kebijakan yang melarang penjualan produk-produk rokok elektronik yang mengandung perasa, dan hanya mengizinkan produk-produk rokok elektornik dengan rasa netral atau menthol (NBC News, 06/02/2020). Lantas, apakah kebijakan pelarangan ini merupakan sesuatu yang tepat?*****Untuk menjawab pertanyaan di atas, kita harus melihat terlebih dahulu akar penyebab dari munculnya kebijakan pelarangan produk-produk rokok elektronik yang menggunakan perasa tersebut. Sehubungan dengan beberapa kasus penyakit pernafasan yang muncul di Amerika Serikat sebagai akibat dari penggunaan rokok elektronik, hal ini merupakan penjelasan yang kurang tepat sesuai dengan fakta di lapangan.Memang benar bahwa, kasus-kasus penyakit pernafasan yang muncul tersebut disebabkan oleh para pengguna vape. Namun, yang sangat penting untuk dicantumkan adalah, hal tersebut disebabkan oleh penggunaan vape ilegal yang berbahaya, dan bukan vape legal. Pada bulan September tahun 2019 lalu, aparat keamanan Amerika Serikat menangkap 2 orang bersaudara yang menjalankan bisnis vape ilegal tersebut (Fox News, 15/09/2019).Melarang produk legal, apapun produknya, untuk mencegah dampak berbahaya yang disebabkan oleh produk serupa yang ilegal adalah kebijakan yang sangat tidak tepat dan justru sangat berbahaya bagi konsumen. Bila pemerintah melarang produk-produk vape legal yang menggunakan perasa, hal tersebut justru akan berpotensi besar semakin menyuburkan pasar vape ilegal yang menggunakan perasa, yang justru dapat sangat membahayakan bagi kesehatan para konsumen.Terkait dengan kekhawatiran produk-produk vape yang menggunakan perasa akan berpotensi menarik hati anak-anak dan remaja, memang benar konsumsi nikotin oleh anak-anak di bawah usia adalah hal yang harus kita cegah. Produk-produk vape atau rokok elektronik memang bukan sesuatu yang untuk dikonsumsi oleh anak-anak.Namun, bukan berarti lantas hal ini bisa menjustifikasi pelarangan seluruh produk-produk vape yang mengandung perasa. Kebijakan ini jsutru akan semakin membatasi opsi yang bisa dimiliki oleh pengguna vape dewasa.Adanya produk-produk vape yang mengandung perasa merupakan salah satu faktor yang sangat penting yang membuat banyak perokok mengalihkan kebiasaan mereka dari menggunakan rokok konvensinal yang dibakar ke rokok elektronik. Berdasarkan penelitian yang dilakukan oleh lembaga Consumer Choice Center (CCC), akan semakin banyak para pengguna vape atau rokok elektronik yang akan berpindah ke mengkonsumsi rokok konvensional apabila pemerintah mengeluarkan aturan yang melarang produk-produk rokok elektronik yang menggunakan perasa (Consumer Choice Center, 2020).Berdasarkan penelitian yang dilakukan di beberapa negara, secara total pelarangan vape yang menggunakan perasa oleh pemerintah akan membuat mereke kembali menggunakan rokok konvensional. Di Amerika Serikat misalnya, jumlah pengguna vape yang akan beralih ke rokok konvensional apabia aturan tersebut diberlakukan ada 7.700.000 pengguna. Sementara itu, di Belanda ada 260.000 orang, diJerman 1.309.000 orang, di Kanada 955.000 orang, dan di Prancis akan ada 1.600.000 pengguna vape yang akan beralih ke rokok konvensional apabila vape yang menggunakan perasa dilarang (Consumer Choice Center, 2020).Hal ini tentu merupakan sesuatu yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan piblik, dan harus dapat kita cegah. Rokok konvensioal yang dibakar telah terbukti secara penuh oleh penelitian medis dapat menyebabkan berbagai penyakit kronis bagi orang-orang yang menggunakannya, seperti berbagai jenis kanker dan serangan jantung.Sebaliknya, vape atau rokok konvensional sudah terbukti jauh lebih aman dan tidak lebih berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Berdasarkan laporan dari lembaga kesehatan publik Britania Raya, Public Health England rokok elektronik atau vape 95% jauh lebih aman bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar (Public Health England, 2015).Penyebab utama mengapa rokok konvensional adalah sesuatu yang sangat berbahaya dan dapat menimbulkan berbagai penyakit bagi konsumennya adalah karena berbagai zat-zat kimia yang terkandung di dalam rokok tersebut. Berdasarkan laporan dari American Lung Association, di dalam rokok konvensional terdapat lebih dari 7.000 zat kimia, di mana 69 dari zat-zat tersebut merupakan zat yang dapat menyebabkan kanker (American Lung Association, 2019). Hal ini jauh berbeda dengan rokok elektornik atau vape. Bahan utama yang terkandung di dalam cairan vape adalah propylene glycol (PG) dan vegetable glycerin (VG) yang banyak digunakan sebagai bahan perasa makanan, dan sudah dinyatakan aman oleh berbagai lembaga regulator di berbagai negara, salah satunya adalah lembaga pengawas obat dan makanan Amerika Serikat, Foods and Drugs Administration (U.S. Food and Drugs Administration, 2019).Sementara itu, terkait dengan kekhawatiran penggunaan vape oleh anak-anak di bawah usia bila rokok elektronik yang menggunakan perasa dilaran, maka solusi atas hal tersebut tentu bukan melarang produk vape berperasa sepenuhnya. Hal tersebut justru akan semakin mengurangi insentif para perokok dewasa yang mengguankan rokok konvensional untuk berhenti merokok dan beralih ke produk lain yang lebih aman.Solusi yang tepat untuk mencegah penggunaan dan konsumsi rokok elektronik oleh anak-anak adalah melarang toko-toko menjual produk-produk tersebut ke anak di bawah usia. Bila ada toko atau penjual yang melanggar aturan tersebut, maka akan dikenakan sanksi yang tegas.Sebagai penutup, sudah terbukti bahwa salah satu faktor yang menyebabkan banyaknya para perokok yang berhenti merokok dan beralih ke produk yang terbukti lebih aman. Jangan sampai kita membuat kebijakan yang semakin menyulitkan mereka dalam melakukan hal tersebut.

Originally published here.

ВООЗ змінює курс – тепер радить не вдаватись до локдаунів

Попри те, що ВООЗ закликає країни утримуватися від введення локдаунів, багато урядів продовжують використовувати цю стратегію.

Попри те, що ВООЗ закликає країни утримуватися від введення локдаунів, багато урядів продовжують використовувати цю стратегію. Український – поки в роздумах.

Наслідки пандемії COVID-19 завдали нищівного удару економіці багатьох країн і нашій, підірвали наші особисті та економічні свободи, що стали жертвами пандемії так само, як і наше здоров’я. Відповідно до результатів одного дослідження, в найближчі п’ять років локдауни можуть нам всім коштувати 82 трильйони доларів у світовому масштабі – приблизно стільки ж, скільки наш річний глобальний ВВП.

В Україні внаслідок першої хвилі пандемії третина компаній втратили 50-75% доходів, майже 45% – до половини доходів, ще 7% опитаних розглядали варіант закриття бізнесу (за результатами травневого опитування Європейської Бізнес Асоціації).

Локдауни весною були обґрунтовані рекомендаціями Світової Організації Охорони Здоров’я. У квітні генеральний директор ВООЗ лікар Тедрос Адханом Гебреєс закликав країни не виходити з локдаунів, поки хвороба не буде під контролем.

Але зараз, більше шість місяців з тих пір, як локдауни стали улюбленим політичним інструментом ба, ВООЗ закликає їх припинити. Лікар Девід Набарро, спеціальний посланник ВООЗ з питань COVID-19, минулого тижня заявив журналісту Spectator UK Ендрю Нілу, що політики помилялися, використовуючи локдаун як “основний метод контролю” для боротьби з COVID-19.

“Локдауни мають лише один наслідок, який ми ніколи не повинні нівелювати: вони роблять бідних людей набагато біднішими”, – сказав Набарро.

Доктор Майкл Райан, директор Програми ВООЗ з надзвичайних ситуацій у галузі охорони здоров’я, розділив такий підхід. “Ми хочемо і можемо уникнути масових локдаунів, які нищать громади, суспільство та все інше”, – сказав містер Райан, виступаючи на брифінгу в Женеві.

Чути такі заяви від організації, яка була ключовим авторитетом і моральним голосом, відповідальним за вирішення глобальної реакції на пандемію, є достатньо приголомшливо.

Рекомендації ВООЗ стали підставою всіх національних та локальних обмежень не тільки в Україні, несучи загрозу повернути 150 мільйонів людей по всьому світу до екстремальної бідності. Як зазначив Набарро, переважна більшість людей, які постраждали від локдаунів, були якраз бідні і ті, кому і так було тяжко зводити кінці з кінцями перед пандемією.

Кожен з нас напевно знає людей, чий бізнес збанкротував, або які втратили роботу через локдаун. Особливо це стосується сфер торгівлі та громадського харчування, які були знищені політикою локдаунів.

І навіть коли ВООЗ закликає країни утримуватися від нав’язування локдаунів, багато урядів продовжують використовувати цю стратегію. Як це все розвинеться в Україні – поки не відомо. Але, наприклад в багатьох штатах США, школи залишаються закритими, так само, як бари і ресторани, а великі збори – окрім протестів – засуджуються та закриваються силою.

Вплив тривалих локдаунів на молодих людей стає все більш очевидним. Недавнє дослідження, проведене в Единбурзькому університеті, говорить про те, що закриття шкіл збільшить кількість смертей через COVID-19. До того ж у дослідженні йдеться про те, що локдауни “подовжують епідемію, в деяких випадках приводячи до більшої кількості смертей на тривалий термін”.

Якщо ми хочемо зменшити вже завдану шкоду і не допустити нової, не треба більше локдаунів. Взагалі треба скептично ставитись до способів боротьби з пандемією чия ціна перевищує їхню потенційну користь.

Божевілля має закінчитися. Не лише тому, що так говорить ВООЗ, а тому, що від цього залежить наше життя і наше майбутнє.

Як зазначили лікарі та науковці у Великій декларації Баррінгтона, підписаній цього місяця в штаті Массачусетс, “локдауни самі по собі мали руйнівний вплив на фізичне та психічне здоров’я, і ці наслідки себе проявлять в короткостроковій та довгостроковій перспективі.”

Ми не можемо продовжувати ризикувати своїм добробутом, закриваючи економіку та людей. Це єдиний шлях вперед, якщо ми прагнемо оговтатися від руйнівних наслідків урядової політики навколо COVID-19.

Статтю написано у співавторстві з  Яелем Оссовскі, заступником директора Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here.

Energiewende: ce que le sévère échec de la transition énergétique allemande devrait nous apprendre

énergie nucléaire centrales environnement

Si nous voulons être sérieux face aux défis climatiques et à la demande croissante d’énergie, il faut que nous reprenions d’urgence le dossier de l’énergie nucléaire.

Imaginez vous que vous déclarez une transition énergétique mais que personne n’y participe. C’est au sens propre ce qui s’est passé en Allemagne avec l’ “Energiewende” (la transition énergétique).

Cette transition allemande a entraîné une hausse importante des prix pour les gens ordinaires. L’Institut de recherche économique a constaté que ce changement radical avait coûté plus de 28 millions d’euros aux ménages allemands, car le marché était soumis à une concurrence moindre. Les grands gagnants de cette transition sont l’industrie du charbon et du gaz.

En effet, l’utilisation des centrales électriques au charbon et au gaz a tant augmenté que l’Allemagne — même avec tout les efforts de réduction des émissions de dioxyde de carbone, est restée stagnante sur ses résultats. Ainsi ses objectifs climatiques n’ont pas été atteints. Afin d’éviter la situation de l’Allemagne, les Verts en Finlande sont en faveur de l’énergie nucléaire. En Suisse, même si le pays ne construit plus de nouvelles centrales, elle a plusieurs fois rejeté le principe d’une sortie complète du nucléaire par voie de référendum.

La nécessité du nucléaire devient également prégnante pour des raisons de sécurité nationale: pourquoi accepter une dépendance croissante au gaz venant de Russie, pays qui viole les droits de l’Homme et se montre régulièrement hostile aux payes européens ?

Pour le monde scientifique, dont le monde politique veut se fier quand il s’agit de souligner l’urgence du changement climatique, a régulièrement fait entendre sa voix dans ce débat. En décembre 2014, 75 scientifiques du monde entier ont rédigé une lettre ouverte aux écologistes sur l’énergie nucléaire, affirmant qu’il s’agit d’un moyen efficace et nécessaire de produire de l’énergie et que les faits contredisent le raisonnement idéologique qui s’oppose aux centrales.

Ces scientifiques étaient réunis par le professeur Barry W. Brook, titulaire de la chaire d’environnement durable à l’université de Tasmanie, en Australie. Cet écologiste a publié trois livres et plus de 300 articles scientifiques. Leur lettre disait :

“Même si les sources d’énergie renouvelables comme le vent et le soleil contribueront probablement de plus en plus à la production énergétique future, ces options technologiques sont confrontées à des problèmes concrets d’extensibilité, de coût, de matériel et d’utilisation des terres, ce qui signifie qu’il est trop risqué de les considérer comme les seules alternatives aux combustibles fossiles.”

L’énergie nucléaire répond aux problèmes de notre temps. C’est une énergie abordable et, de façon importante, n’émet pas d’émissions CO2. Les Etats-Unis, pas particulièrement connu d’être adepte aux accords internationaux pour le climat, ont évité 476,2 tonnes de CO2 grâce au nucléaire. Depuis 1995, cela fait un total de 15,7 milliards de tonnes qui a été évité grâce au nucléaire, soit un tiers de la consommation annuelle de la planète. Evidemment, il s’agit d’un chiffre qu’il s’agirait d’augmenter mais cela ne sera possible qu’avec des modèles énergétiques comme celui de la France, qui garantie l’indépendence énergétique avec un système de centrales nucléaires extensifs.

De plus, il faut revenir sur les faits quand à la discussion sur les déchets. En réalité, le combustible nucléaire est extrêmement dense. Il est environ un million de fois plus important que celui des autres sources d’énergie traditionnelles et, de ce fait, la quantité de combustible nucléaire utilisée est petite. La totalité des déchets des combustibles nucléaires produit par l’industrie nucléaire américaine au cours des 60 dernières années pourrait tenir sur un terrain de football à moins de 10 mètres de profondeur. De plus, actuellement 96% de ces “déchets” sont recyclables.

L’opposition au nucléaire est principalement dû à la méconnaissance des systèmes technologiques, ainsi qu’à la médiatisation problématiques des accidents comme celui de Fukishima. Comme le note l’écologiste Michael Schellenberger, “le nombre de décès pour une production identique d’électricité, ici par exemple le térawattheure est notablement inférieur à celui des autres grands moyens de production de masse comme le charbon, le pétrole, la biomasse et le gaz naturel.”

Si nous sommes tous préoccupés par les effets du changement climatique, nous devons nous rendre compte que l’énergie nucléaire est la seule alternative viable qui soit sûre, propre et capable de garantir la production dont nous avons besoin. Faut-il avoir un débat sur le nucléaire ? Evidemment. Mais il faut assurer que ce débat soit basé sur les faits et sans perdre de vue l’objectif de maintenir notre qualité de vie tout en réduisant les gaz à effet de serre.

Bill Wirtz est analyste de politiques publiques pour l’Agence pour le choix du consommateur (Consumer Choice Center).

Originally published here.

The BBC can’t resist speculating on the science

In this column (26 September), I pointed out that the National Trust’s new ‘Gazetteer’ of its 93 properties linked with slavery and ‘colonialism’ was not so much a scholarly documentation as ‘a charge sheet and a hit list’. Once the organisation entrusted with the care of a building denigrates that building’s most famous occupants, logic suggests it will care for the building less well than for that of an occupant it admires. This logic is already starting to work through. The National Trust owns Thomas Carlyle’s house in Chelsea, but now it has closed it ‘until further notice’, whereas all the other small houses of the Trust in London will reopen in March. For the first time since it was opened to the public in 1895, the place will have no live-in housekeeper. Although not stated, the reason for this downgrading would seem to be Carlyle’s racial views. When it does reopen, members are promised ‘a different visitor experience’. If you click on the Trust’s website entry for the house, you can listen to a podcast entitled ‘Think a Likkle: Lineage of Thought’ by Ellie Ikiebe, who is a New Museum School trainee at the National Trust. She appears not to have visited 24 Cheyne Row until making the podcast, but she knows what she wants to do with Carlyle. ‘If we truly acknowledged the lineage of thought, popular society would see the links between colonialism, white supremacy to the injustice of Breonna Taylor death and the black lives matter movement’, she says. She is ‘shifting the narrative to under-represented histories’. The ‘hidden history’ here is that Carlyle was a racist. His ‘lineage of thought’, which she wishes people to ‘break from’, is that white men dictate what we think. Two thoughts strike me. The first is that the history of Carlyle’s views has never been hidden: he has always been intensely controversial, and critics have alleged that some of his views assisted, long after his death, the development of fascist thought. The second is that a charity which publishes such a hostile piece by someone who appears not to know much about the subject is not a fit body to look after his heritage.

When Peregrine Worsthorne died last week, my mind went back to February 1986. There was great excitement at that time about the state of British newspapers. Rupert Murdoch was defeating the print unions at Wapping and the talk was of an entirely new, independent paper starting. (It did: it was called, suitably, the Independent.) At the same time, Conrad Black had finally gained complete control of the Telegraph group and was about to appoint his own editors. Owned by Australians and therefore observing from the touchline, The Spectator (which I was then editing) tried to analyse the situation mischievously. Who better to do so, I thought, than Perry Worsthorne? He was by far the Sunday Telegraph’s most famous writer at the time, and could be relied on to make trouble. When I commissioned him to write the article, Perry grinned in a slightly furtive way, and agreed. The following day — entirely without my foreknowledge or expectation — he was announced as the next editor of the Sunday Telegraph.

So the cover piece Perry produced (‘The Battle for Good Journalism’, 1 March 1986) turned into his manifesto. ‘I never thought any proprietor would make me editor’, he wrote, because editing in the era of the print union tyranny had meant an endless battle for survival, with little chance to reflect. But perhaps the happier commercial climate would allow room for ‘a writing and thinking editor’. He imagined ‘a latter-day Dr Johnson’: the paper would be ‘highly intelligent but also commonsensical, authoritative as well as readable; high-principled, without being in the least moralistic… There would be plenty of idiosyncratic opinion and shafts of dazzling originality.’ To a remarkable degree, Perry the editor achieved his aim, though I would take out the word ‘commonsensical’, which he rarely was, and add the word ‘fearless’, which he was all the time. His experiment ended prematurely, due to managerial anxieties, but it was splendid and gallant while it lasted. In his final years (he died aged 96), bedridden and almost completely lost to the world, beautifully looked after by his wife Lucy, who kept telling him (it was the truth) how handsome he was, Perry retained his dandified courage.

Last week, this September was pronounced the hottest ever worldwide. Seeking, as ever, to dramatise the story, the BBC reporter Roger Harrabin ended thus on Radio 4 News: ‘Scientists warn these extremes are happening with just one degree of heating globally, when under the current projected rate of carbon emissions, we’re heading towards three degrees.’ His sentence raised more questions than it answered. Which scientists? One degree of heating over what period? Who is responsible for the currently projected rate of carbon emissions he cites? When will their projected rise of three degrees be reached? And how do we know that the September ‘extremes’ he described — wildfires in California, half a metre of rain falling in a day in France — were caused by the one degree warming he mentioned? That single sentence was a neat encapsulation of the Harrabin method — moving deftly from probable fact (the September global figure) to imagined trend, to full-scale, undated catastrophe. The Reverend Mr Harrabin is always preaching that the end is nigh, but it is more than his job’s worth to say when.

Sensing when it began that Covid-19 would deprive people of many small pleasures and freedoms, I kept one or two things which would remind me of them, on a multum in parvo principle. I have a press release from the senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center, an ‘advocacy group’, issued in mid-March. Its headline is ‘Greece banning snuff in times of emergency is undemocratic and cruel’. Hear! Hear! Sadly, even more undemocratic and cruel things have happened since then.

Originally published here.

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