Month: April 2021

California’s AB 286 is a hidden tax on consumers and small businesses. The legislature should vote NO

Our coalition of community organizations, minority-owned businesses, small businesses,
taxpayer advocates restaurants, merchants and app-based drivers strongly oppose Assembly
Bill 286. While AB 286 purports to help restaurants and merchants, the bill will result in
increased costs to consumers, reduced business and revenues for restaurants, and fewer
income-earning opportunities for drivers.

AB 286 is a hidden tax on consumers and small businesses and would hurt the very restaurants
it is intended to protect.

App-based delivery platforms connect restaurants, customers, and drivers. Fees are carefully
balanced to reflect the mutual benefits to each party: fees on restaurants help pay for marketing,
payment and insurance for drivers, customer service, and other services that help restaurants
gain customers and grow business. Fees on customers reflect the convenience and value of the
delivery service while also ensuring fair payment to drivers.

AB 286 would arbitrarily and permanently cap fees paid by restaurants and will force prices to
rise on consumers in order to ensure adequate revenues to provide app-based delivery
services. For instance, a 15% cap on a typical $20 food order is $3. That $3 is insufficient to
pay for the driver, insurance, marketing, credit card processing fees, customer support,
technology, and costs of operating the platform.

Because of this, in communities that have passed these arbitrary fee caps, consumer prices
have increased to compensate and ensure that app-based delivery remains viable. In cities that
have implemented these arbitrary fee caps, consumer costs have immediately gone up by $2-3
per order.

Higher prices are proven to reduce demand by as much as 30%, taking away customers and
business from restaurants that are struggling to stay afloat during these challenging times. AB
286 will be particularly harmful to small independent restaurants trying to compete with larger
chains that have their own marketing and even delivery services. Furthermore, while AB 286
purports to help restaurants struggling with the pandemic, it is permanent in nature and won’t
even go into effect until 2022.

And the higher prices also harm drivers working with app-based platforms, as reduced demand
for services means fewer work opportunities for drivers, less income for drivers and reduced
sales tax revenues for municipalities.

Finally, AB 286 is unnecessary. California recently passed legislation (AB 2149) that requires
app-based platforms to enter into a contract with every restaurant and merchant they list on
their app. As a result, every restaurant or merchant that utilizes app-based delivery services
has voluntarily entered into an agreement with full transparency into the terms, fees, and
benefits of partnering with these platforms.

We strongly urge you to vote No on AB 286. It hurts restaurants, customers, and app-based
drivers.

Sincerely,

Lily Rocha, President, Latino Restaurant Association
Julian Canete, President & CEO, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce
Pat Fong Kushida, President & CEO, CalAsian Chamber of Commerce
Rev. KW Tulloss, President, Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California
Matt Regan, Senior Vice President, Bay Area Council
Cindy Roth, President & CEO, Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce
Reuben Franco, President & CEO, Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Elise Swanson, Chair, South Bay Association of Chambers of Commerce
Jessica Lall, President & CEO, Central City Association – Los Angeles
Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director, Consumer Choice Center
Heidi L. Gallegos, President & CEO, Brea Chamber of Commerce
Leah Vukmir, VP of State Affairs, National Taxpayers Union
Moises Merino, President, Latino Leadership & Policy Forum
Ruben Guerra, President and Chair, Latin Business Association

Rev. Jonathan E. Moseley, Western Regional Director, National Action Network – Los Angeles
David Cruz, President, League of United Latin American Citizens Council 3288
Jay King, President & CEO, California Black Chamber of Commerce
Faith Bautista, CEO, National Diversity Coalition
Stuart Waldman, President, Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA)
Marc Ang, Founder/President, Asian Industry B2B
Peter Leroe-Muñoz, General Counsel, SVP, Tech & Innovation, Silicon Valley Leadership Group
Thomas Hudson, President, California Taxpayers Protection Committee
Adam Ruiz, Chair, Southwest California Legislative Council
Faith Bautista, President & CEO, National Asian American Coalition
Brandon M. Black, Director of Public Policy, Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
Thomas Hudson, President, Placer County Taxpayers Association
Dominik Knoll, CEO, Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce
Cindy Spindle, CEO, Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce

PDF LINK HERE

The Commission’s great U-Turn on mRNA vaccines

Here’s a change of heart we can support…

Back in January I published a blog post on this site asking the question of whether the new generation of COVID-19 vaccines will change our view on genetic engineering. In a statement back in July last year, the European Parliament said that “The derogation will facilitate the development, authorisation and consequently availability of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments”. According to EU legislation dating back to the early 2000s, genetic engineering is generally forbidden, with only a few exceptions. This was particularly driven by the scepticism of genetic engineering in agriculture. The Pfizer/Biontech, which to date remains the most prominent and incidentally most trusted COVID-19, something that surveys have also shown with our friends in the United States.

Now, the Commission is surfing the wave of the popularity of this vaccine in order to bank on mRNA shots for fighting COVID-19. And, as Euractiv reports, more voices are supportive of these vaccines in the fight against future pandemics: “Commenting on the news, centre-right MEP Peter Liese said he supported the decision to move towards mRNA vaccines, pointing out that they can be better adapted to mutations.”

Peter Liese is to be commended for his statement on this matter. Indeed, this new technology which relies on genetic engineering is very promising. For some experts, mRNA vaccines hold the key to faster and more effective vaccine programmes, capable of fighting multiple viruses in a single injection or providing protection against recalcitrant diseases (diseases characterised by poor survival and with little progress made in developing novel treatments).

In January, Moderna launched new programmes to develop mRNA vaccines for Nipah virus, HIV and influenza, adding to its portfolio of 20 mRNA candidates. Pfizer is also developing new mRNA vaccines, including one for seasonal flu. Several dozen other manufacturers and laboratories around the world are currently involved in similar initiatives.

The use of mRNA as a therapeutic or vaccine technique has been studied and developed for over a decade. Its interest seems to go beyond the field of vaccines against infectious diseases and also concerns cancers (see, for example, the immunotherapy products under development at BioNTech, or diseases with an autoimmune component (a treatment against multiple sclerosis is under development at BioNTech).

COVID-19 will have accelerated the large-scale evaluation of mRNA technologies. It is likely that this approach will expand massively in the coming years, also benefiting from advances in microencapsulation (nanoparticle) technologies. This technology could be refined by allowing nanoparticles to target specific cells by adding specific recognition molecules (e.g. ligands, receptors, antibodies) to the particle membrane. It will then be possible to deliver mRNA only to cells that need it (e.g. to compensate for the absence of a protein in genetic diseases, as with gene therapy, or to eliminate infected or tumour cells).

However, for this to happen the European Union ought to change its general approach to genetic engineering. While the support for the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine is commendable, more needs to be done from the point of view of legislation. There is a significant logical discrepancy when we are ready to use genetic engineering for medical purposes, but we somehow reject it in the field of agriculture. There are comparable health benefits to using similar technologies in our food; not least since the invention of vitamin B-heavy Golden Rice for the Asian market have genetically modified foods shown to be inherently linked to healthier food. On top of that, we can achieve our climate ambitions through new technologies that consume less resources at higher yields.

Originally published here.

Is Now The Time For A War On Plastic?

On Wednesday, the international consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center released a policy paper detailing the war on plastic, federal and state efforts at mitigating plastic waste, and potential legislative steps to better protect our environment.

In Deconstructing The War On Plastic the authors evaluate the issue of plastic waste in the United States including that of single-use plastics and alternatives and examine if legislative efforts to curb plastic waste will ultimately better serve the environment.

“In our report we highlight how local or state bans on plastic products often come with high negative environmental externalities,” said co-author Yaël Ossowski. “These bans ultimately push consumers to high-impact alternatives, and don’t necessarily reduce the total amount of plastic used by consumers. Rather than trying to ban their way out of this problem, we propose that state and local governments better collaborate to expand advanced recycling,” said Ossowski, also deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

“At the federal level, the combination of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act and the CLEAN Future Act will make tackling plastic waste significantly more difficult. Both acts seek to put a moratorium on permits for advanced recycling facilities. This incredibly problematic because it hamstrings recycling efforts, which limits the nation’s ability to properly recycle plastic waste,” said co-author David Clement, North American Affairs Manager at CCC.

“Not only that, but the acts also seek to create a recycled content mandate for plastic products. Creating demand for recycled plastic, while at the same time limiting the capacity of plastic recycling facilities, is a recipe for disaster; specifically, one where demand for recycled plastic rapidly outpaces supply, which will drastically increase prices,” added Clement.

The authors propose a 4-step solution for the issue of plastic waste:

1) A ban on the export of plastic waste to countries that fail to meet environmental stewardship standards.

2) The expansion of advanced recycling and chemical depolymerization permits.

3) Embrace innovation and market solutions. There are a variety of new biodegradable plastics being brought to market, and those market solutions should be permitted to continue to develop.

4) Evaluate market mechanisms to price waste accordingly, so that externalities of mismanaged waste are not offloaded onto communities. We propose a full review of how the US can effectively price waste, in consultation with both consumers and producers.

Originally published here.

Europe Shouldn’t Follow Congress’ War on Plastic

Europe should steer clear of these heavy handed, and counterproductive initiatives…

At the Federal level in the United States, Congress has declared a war on plastics, specifically with the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act and the CLEAN Future Act. Their goal is to ultimately reduce the amount of plastic waste that the US produces, which would in turn result in lower rates of mismanaged plastic ending up in the environment. On its face, the goals of congress are noble, but their policy prescriptions are incredibly misguided. It would be disastrous for Europeans if the EU followed America’s lead and replicated either of these Acts.

Replicating the CLEAN Future Act or the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act would be a disaster for Europe for two main reasons.

The first is that Congress is attempting to enact a moratorium on permits for plastic manufacturing facilities. The purpose of this is to stop the expansion of this industry, which in theory protects the environment from the emissions associated with production. But this fails to recognize that there are legitimate and environmentally conscious reasons to choose plastic over competing products. Take, for example, the shipment of baby food. Baby food in plastic containers, as opposed to glass alternatives, generates 33% feweremissions because of the energy required in the production of plastic and its lighter weight in transportation. Although this is just one niche example, this same principle could be applied to a near-infinite number of plastics.

Beyond questions on sustainability and competing products, the moratorium reeks of regulatory capture. For those unfamiliar, regulatory capture is when new laws are passed that insulate an existing industry from future competition, allowing them to solidify its market share. The bill’s moratorium on plastic facilities shields the existing industry from competition, and ensures that more environmentally conscious competitors are kept out of the market entirely. This is important for both those who oppose cronyism and corporate welfare, and those who want better environmental policies, especially because there are new almost entirely biodegradable plastic products coming to market. Preventing permits for innovators benefits the existing industry at the expense of consumers and the environment.

On top of a moratorium on plastic manufacturing, the Acts also seek to implement a moratorium on advanced recycling permits and chemical depolymerization. Through chemical depolymerization, all plastic can be either recycled, repurposed, or converted. Chemical depolymerization is the process of breaking down plastics, altering their bonds, and repurposing them into other products. There are countless examples of why this technology is key to dealing with mismanaged plastics, with innovators turning problematic plastic into everything from resin pelletsroadwaystiles for your home, and high strength graphene. If the US wants to tackle plastic waste, the federal government can’t at the same time limit advanced recycling capacity. By capping recycling facilities, these bills prevent the scalability of recycling efforts, which creates a giant hurdle for dealing with plastic waste. The goal of legislation should be to make recycling more affordable, which is only possible through more competition. 

To make matters worse, these Acts also create a recycled content mandate. This type of mandate has its pros and cons, but it is disastrous if it is enforced alongside a permit cap on advanced recycling.

Creating a recycled content mandate will drastically increase, by decree, the demand for

recycled plastic. In fact, the BFFPP Act, if followed through with the CLEAN Future Act,

would mandate upwards of 25% recycled content in plastic bottles by 2025, and 80% by 2040.

The issue here is that these mandates will limit the capacity of advanced recyclers to meet that demand. If there is a significant uptick in the demand for recycled plastic, and advanced recycling is not allowed to scale up to meet demand, we could see a situation where demand rapidly outpaces supply, which will only serve to drive prices upwards. Those inflated costs will mostly be shouldered by consumers, who will have those costs passed on to them in the form of higher prices. This trend is exactly what was seen in other countries who passed bio-ethanol mandates, which had the negative effect of significantly increasing prices for the crops used in the creation of ethanol. 

Europe should steer clear of these heavy handed, and counterproductive initiatives. Rather than doubling down on restrictions, Europe should embrace innovation and advanced recycling, which both enhances consumer choice and protects the environment. 

Originally published here.

Does the CDC’s Mask Mandate for 2-Year-Old Children Make Sense? A Look at the Science

The justifications for requiring young children to be masked are that either they are at-risk for COVID, or at-risk for being carriers of the virus.

In the age of COVID, flying carries significant risks for you and your family.

Part of that is the virus itself, but increasingly, parents are being kicked off flights because their young children are refusing to wear facemasks.

Across the US and Canada, hundreds of stories have been highlighted in which families have been physically removed from flights because their toddlers did not want to wear masks.

Whether it is on SouthwestJetBlueAmerican AirlinesSpirit Airlines, or United, practically every US airline has had a version of the horror story of a young family escorted off a flight because a kid didn’t want to wear a mask. There have been cases where single mothers with up to six children have been booted, and even kids who were eating before the flight took off.

Worse, many of these airlines permanently ban passengers who refuse to comply with this policy, even children.

This particularly concerns me as I will soon be taking an international flight back to the US with my two-year-old. She has never been forced to wear a mask, whether in daycare or travel in Europe, and I doubt she will leave it tight and snug for the 9-hour long-haul. Should I already have my lawyer on speed dial?

While many airlines have had similar policies for months, those rules are now based on an administrative order published by the Centers for Disease Control on January 29, 2021, following one of the bevy of executive orders signed by President Joe Biden in his first few days in office.

While Biden’s order requires masks for domestic and international travel, he leaves the specific guidelines to the CDC. But even though the CDC has been stringent on its rule of masks for all persons two and above, this directly contradicts what we know about COVID-19 and children.

At present, the justifications for requiring young children to be masked are that either they are at-risk for COVID, or at-risk for being carriers of the virus.

On the first point, all the available data we have from multiple studies in dozens of countries shows that children are not particularly at risk for hospitalization or death.

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 13.4 percent of COVID cases have been adolescent children under 18, mostly in the older age range. Young children fared better.

As of December 2020, when we had the most complete age breakdown, children 0-4 represented 1.3 percent of all COVID cases in the United States, at 212,879. Just over 2 percent of those were hospitalized (0.02 percent in total), and 52 in total had died.

For statewide data, in California, with the most number of cases in the country, there have so far been two COVID deaths recorded for children under five.

While every death related to COVID is indeed tragic, especially when it relates to young children, the relative risk is incredibly low.

But what about young children spreading the disease to their parents and grandparents?

A CDC-conducted study in Rhode Island in July 2020 found that the opening of childcare centers did not lead to a spread of coronavirus.

Further, one Icelandic study from December found that young children were half as likely to catch and spread the virus, and that “infected adults pose a greater danger to children than kids do to adults.”

A wide-ranging study conducted in Israel and published in February found that young people under 20 carry 63 percent less viral load than adults, meaning they have less propensity to spread the virus. That number is even lower among toddlers.

While the headlines would have us believe otherwise, with all the available data we have now, young children under six are not significant spreaders of COVID, even with potential variants.

Beyond that, Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, citing studies from Sweden and the World Health Organization, recommended in the Wall Street Journal that we avoid masking children up until at least 11, considering the low risk of infection and the very real hazard of stunting kids’ developmental progress.

Bhattacharya was one of the many prominent medical experts present—along with Sunetra Gupta of Oxford, Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, and Scott Atlas of Stanford—at the COVID roundtable held last month by Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis. All advised against masking children for various health reasons, though their views have now been banned from YouTube for discussing the topic.

Bans aside, the medical literature largely supports Bhattacharya’s claims that the benefits of masking children are “small to none,” while the costs are high.

How then can the CDC continue to mandate that toddlers wear masks on long travel journeys, especially when they cause a fraction of the risk of an adult? These rules seem to have been written by people who do not have young children, and do not understand why it is problematic.

To leave the toddler mask mandate in place severely limits the freedom of children and young families to travel, and stands against the scientific and medical facts.

If ever there was a time to allow science to inform our judgments, it is now. Otherwise, this is nothing more than pandemic theatre.

Originally published here.

Cuota de cine mexicano a Netflix, Amazon y HBO afectará al consumidor

La Ley Federal de Cinematografía y el Audiovisual, pretende que plataformas digitales como Netflix, Amazon, HBO o Blim tengan como obligación ofrecer el 30% de producción nacional, algo que perjudicará directamente a los consumidores mexicanos.

“La nueva ley impone una cuota desproporcionada de contenidos nacionales en todas las plataformas digitales que operan en México, similar al modelo de la Unión Europea con el fin de mejorar la producción y distribución de contenido local en las plataformas digitales, pero la mexicana está incompleta”, se señala en un documento del Consumer Choice Center con sede en Estados Unidos.

La  legislación europea encontró un equilibrio entre la promoción de sus contenidos locales y el mantenimiento de los incentivos para invertir en nuevas producciones.

“Sabían que una cuota de contenido por sí misma no tendría un impacto directo en los incentivos para producir nuevos contenidos locales, especialmente para los pequeños productores independientes que no siempre pueden alcanzar los altos montos de inversión requeridos para producirlos. Por ello, todos los países europeos que han decidido aplicar esta obligación la han combinado con incentivos fiscales para promover la producción audiovisual”, agregan.

Por esto, La Ley Federal de Cinematografía y el Audiovisual debe, también, incluir incentivos financieros para la producción nacional. Hasta ahora, los resultados han demostrado que en Europa el ingrediente esencial de esta ecuación son los incentivos financieros, no las cuotas.

La pérdida de los consumidores sería inmensa de aprobarse dicha ley, apoyada por la Academia Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias e impulsada por el senador Ricardo Monreal y la bancada de MORENA.

“Para cumplir con la cuota del 15%, Amazon Prime, al igual que otras plataformas similares, tendría que triplicar su colección de películas mexicanas en muy poco tiempo sin tener la certeza de que haya contenido disponible para incluir en su catálogo.  Reducirán la cantidad de contenido total disponible y comprando más contenido producido principalmente por Televisa. En lugar de aumentar la oferta”.

Sin cuotas y sin leyes

Las cuotas de contenido ya se está dando a través de un proceso natural en el que las plataformas internacionales buscan crecer fuera de sus países de origen.

Amazon Prime aumentó el contenido original producido en México en un 68% entre 2018 y 2019. En 2020, Netflix invirtió 200 millones de dólares para producir contenido original en México y gastará casi 300 millones de dólares para producir 51 series en 2021. México es uno de los cinco países en el mundo donde Netflix opera un estudio de producción para producir contenido regional. Disney+ también producirá 21 producciones este año en México. Y HBO Max, incluso antes de su lanzamiento, ya está creando producciones localmente. Todo ello sin cuotas impuestas por el gobierno.

“La cuota de contenido haría que la inversión de las plataformas digitales en México no se dedique a realizar nuevas producciones con nuevos talentos, y únicamente se destine a comprar programas antiguos, frenando el desarrollo del cine mexicano que recientemente ha tenido éxito de mano de los servicios de streaming”, se explica en dicho documento.

Netflix tiene más de 4,000 títulos aquí en México y Prime Video tiene más de 4,000. Blim, la plataforma mexicana con la mayor biblioteca local de contenidos, tiene casi el mismo número de películas mexicanas en su catálogo que Prime Video en 2019 (231 y 224 respectivamente). Sin embargo, las 231 películas mexicanas representan el 95% de todo el catálogo en Blim y sólo el 5% del catálogo de Prime Video. Para cumplir con la cuota del 15%, Prime Video tendría que eliminar dos terceras partes de su biblioteca.

¿Un peligro más?

La fracción de Morena en la Cámara de Diputados propuso cobrar un impuesto del 7% adicional en las tarifas que cobran las plataformas digitales extranjeras por los servicios de streaming .

La diputada Reyna Celeste Ascencio propuso modificar la Ley del Impuestos Especial Sobre Producción y Servicios (IEPS) y el  impuesto se cobrará adicionalmente a la tarifa de Apple Tv, Disney +, Hulu, Netflix, Roku, entre otros servicios.

El consumidor, volverá a perder ante un aumento en el precio de las plataformas y por la obligación de ver productos mexicanos, sin darle la oportunidad de elegir lo que quiere ver.

Originally published here.

No-fly lists fly in the face of civil rights

Imitating the United States’ surveillance state methods will not make Europeans safer…

The European Union has been going through the process of creating a counter-terorrism database (CTR) that will compile information from EU countries regarding ongoing investigations, prosecutions and convictions of militants, including returning foreign fighters who joined terrorist groups abroad. 

Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran said in the inaugurating press conference: 

‘The Counter-Terrorism Register is a major step forward in the fight against terrorism. Now that terrorists operate more and more in cross-border networks, the EU must do the same. By providing swift feedback on cross-border links between judicial proceedings, we can better coordinate and speed up actions against suspects of terrorist activities. Having the right information is of essential importance to combat terrorism and will reinforce the EU as an area of justice and security.’

The purported aim of the measure is to track suspicious individuals as they appear on the radar of national law enforcement agencies to more effectively address  anti-terrorism prevention within the union. This is a laudable goal, particularly given the spate of terrorist attacks since the assault on the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in 2015. However, the implementation of such a database also requires addressing fundamental questions of civil and human rights and the functioning of our rule of law.

In the United States, 9/11 caused a radical shift in the way the state perceived its role in terrorism prevention. A previous attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 proved unsuccessful and was shrugged off as an outlier. Following the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration saw an opportunity to reinforce the law and order state. Most notably, this involved the mass surveillance of citizens through agencies such as the NSA, a practice that peaked under Presidents Bush and Obama. The revelations of NSA operator Edward Snowdon shed light on the practices of the U.S government and a wave of outrage made it possible for the U.S. legislature to repeal the so-called Patriot Act. 

The perception remained in Europe that a lack of coordination, as well as a different legal and moral philosophy, made the surveillance state less likely or would not be as invasive. However, the United Kingdom had already championed CCTV surveillance and recording air travel passenger information was on the rise. Today, hardly any European city is free of CCTV surveillance and the Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive of the European Union makes the collection of this data mandatory for national governments. States also monitor social media, with some believing anonymity should be scrapped online, and prevent citizens from visiting certain websites, particularly if they’re believed to be associated with terorrism. The negative ramifications for free speech are evident, but a greater concern arises with regard to personal privacy. 

The United States has created counter-terrorism databases, including the infamous no-fly list. The list registers potential terrorists who are barred from air travel. There is no established legal procedure to get on or off the list and officials do not need to justify their decisions or notify the citizens in question. Even senior politicians have been trapped by this system.

The EU’s counter-terrorism database is at risk of becoming a European no-fly list where due process is ignored under the pretence of added security. EU citizens should stand up against the EUROJUST database.

Originally published here.

Obesity has made Covid deaths worse – but let’s not learn the wrong lessons

Whichever way you look at it, obesity is on the rise in Britain. By 2018, the proportion of British adults classified as obese had reached 28 per cent. Deaths attributed to obesity and excess body fat are climbing with each year that passes.

In fact, a recent study went so far as to claim that obesity is now responsible for more deaths than smoking. Smoking-related deaths have been falling in recent years and as of 2017, 23 per cent of deaths were linked to obesity, versus just 19 per cent for smoking.

As we know all too well by now, this seems to have contributed to the UK’s disproportionately high Covid-19 death toll. Obesity is one of the key coronavirus risk factors identified by the NHS early on in the pandemic, for good reason. Even setting aside other risk factors like diabetes and heart disease, from the data we have so far, obesityappears to have an additional effect of its own.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, public health nannies have leapt on these facts to push their extraordinarily damaging political agenda. From sugar taxes to food advertising restrictions, this Conservative government looks as though it has been well and truly conquered by those who want to see enforced plain packaging on crisps and chocolates and calorie counts on pints in pubs.

That might sound like hyperbole – but it isn’t. Enforced calorie counts are on the agenda, according to documents leaked to the Sun. And the idea of plain packaging for unhealthy foods, like we already have on cigarettes, is a real, straight-faced proposal from the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-wing think tank, and has been publicly endorsed by the nannies-in-chief at Public Health England.

Sugar might well be the new tobacco – and these campaigners want to see us repeat all the harmful mistakes that were made when trying to regulate smoking out of existence.

Sadly, the fact that this proposal comes from the left doesn’t mean that we don’t have to worry about it becoming a reality under a Tory government. Just a few years ago, those same groups of fringe lobbyists were the only ones campaigning for advertising bans on junk food and taxes on soft drinks – but now, ad bans have been embraced as government policy and the sugar tax is already in force.

Neither of those policies work, and both have disastrous side-effects. The so-called “sin taxes” are ineffective – the evidence shows that when confronted with taxes on sugary drinks, people either pay the inflated prices, switch to other high-sugar, high-calorie options like fruit juices, or buy cheaper own-brand soft drinks to offset the price difference.

In other words, they don’t have an impact on the amount of calories people consume – as we can see from the fact that obesity rates continue to climb.

These regressive taxes also make the poor poorer. Analysis has consistently shown that making essential items like food and drinks more expensive hurts the poor more than anyone else.

Advertising restrictions have similar problems. The government’s ad ban policy – whichappears to have been axed at the eleventh hour, but given the lack of official confirmation, could rear its head again any second – is to restrict advertising of what it deems to be “unhealthy foods”. The immediate issue with that is that the government’s definition of unhealthy foods which cause obesity and must be restricted apparently includes honey, yoghurt, mustard and tinned fruit.

Even more damningly, the government’s own analysis of its policy, which it stuck by for many months despite universal industry outcry, concludes that it would remove an average of 1.7 calories from children’s diets per day. For context, that is the equivalent of roughly half a Smartie. And that’s to say nothing of the immense cost of hamstringing the advertising industry, precisely when we are relying on private sector growth to revive the post-Covid economic recovery.

Government interventions are always going to be short-sighted and ineffectual by their nature. We should not ignore obesity – but the way we confront it must allow people to retain control over their own lives. Rather than taxing or regulating obesity in the hope that it goes away, government policy should create an environment which can facilitate weight management.

For instance, recent research found that a diabetes drug can do wonders for weight loss. People who took semaglutide suddenly found the pounds dropping off, with many losing 15 per cent of their bodyweight. 

And health innovation goes far beyond the lab and the GP surgery. Studies have, shown, for instance, that the simple act of chewing gum can help people lose weight. “Chewing gum had a dual effect on appetite,” said researchers at the University of Liverpool and Glasgow Caledonian University. “It reduces both the subjective sensations associated with eating and the amount of food eaten during a snack… leading to an 8.2 per cent decrease in appetite for sweet and salty snacks.”

Instead of giving public health nannies free rein to govern our diets and shopping habits, the government should be investing in pioneering research like this to find free-market answers to obesity. If sugar really is the new tobacco, let’s not resort to excessive state meddling once again. Let’s instead harness the power of innovation and let our world-class scientific research institutions do the hard work for us.

Originally published here.

بهترین ایستگاه‌های راه‌آهن اروپا به روایت تصویر

موسسه بین‌المللی حمایت از مصرف کنندگان در واشنگتن “Consumer Choice Center” پنجاه ایستگاه قطار در کشورهای اروپایی را زیر ذره‌بین قرار داده این 

ایپزیگ، بهترین ایستگاه سال در اروپا
بزرگ حتما بهترین نیست. در بررسی بهترین ایستگاه‌ها برای مسافران برخی از ایستگا‌های بزرگ اروپا همچون مادرید حتی در میان ۱۰ ایستگاه اول دیده نمی‌شوند. ایستگاه لایپزیگ بخاطر ارائه خدمات و کیفیت آن عنوان بهترین ایستگاه راه آهن اروپا را بدست آورد.

Originally published here.

Казанский и Курский вокзалы Москвы вошли в топ-10 лучших в Европе

Казанский и Курский вокзалы Москвы вошли в десятку лучших европейских. Об этом сообщили РЖД в своем Telegram-канале.

Уточняется, что международная неправительственная организация Consumer Choice Center представила рейтинг лучших европейских железнодорожных вокзалов. В 2021 году Казанский вокзал Москвы разделил четвертое место с вокзалом Amsterdam Centraal столицы Нидерландов, а Курский вокзал занял шестое место. 

При составлении рейтинга специалисты учитывали большое количество факторов, таких как пассажиропоток, создание безбарьерной среды для маломобильного населения, навигация, наличие магазинов и ресторанов, близость гостиниц и общественного транспорта и другие. 

Казанский вокзал в 2020 году также вошел в топ-10 лучших вокзалов Европы, заняв 9-е место, добавили в РЖД.

Ранее сообщалось, что два новых вокзала Минская и Аминьевская будущего МЦД-4 откроются для пассажиров уже в 2021 году.

Originally published here.

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