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The EU and the U.S. Need a Common Digital Market Strategy to Counter China

The past few weeks have been hardly an easy time for Facebook.Frances Haugen’s leak, combined with a six-hour blackout last week, has reinforced some politicians’ desire to further regulateFacebook, or even completely break it up, as proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. However, while the EU and U.S. are thinking long and hard about their next move against big tech, China has been taking over our digital space in the West slowly but consistently.

Following a report by an anonymous researcher, Hikvision, a Chinese surveillance company, is now facing scrutiny over a privacy breach in Europe. The high-tech cameras produced by Hikvision have been found to be vulnerable and carry risk of malicious code insertion or cyberattacks.

In the U.S., Hikvision was put on the sanctions list under President Trump in 2019. China’s appetite for data is hardly news, and as Europe is finally starting to open its eyes to its scope, it’s time for a shared action. To counteract growing Chinese influences, the EU and U.S. need a comprehensive transatlantic agreement on digital policies.

In January 2021, the European Commission presented the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA). At first glance, both acts aim to curb innovation in the EU by keeping American tech giants at bay. Combined with antitrust investigations against Facebook and Amazon, the European Union’s behavior can be easily classified as hostile toward the U.S. However, both DSA and DMA are inept attempts to understand how online platforms work and seemingly fail to strike a balance between the need to safeguard the competition while allowing smaller enterprises to innovate.

To level the playing field for all platforms regardless of their size, the Digital Markets Act put in place a series of ex-ante restrictions to determine the acceptable market behavior for big players. DSA and DMA are not anti-American per se; it just happens that the U.S. tech sector is fertile ground for disruptive platform businesses, which makes them a prime target for EU authorities.

Even U.S. lawmakers have been determined to clip the wings of big tech to encourage future digital innovation. Throughout the years, Facebook has had to fight several antitrust complaints to disprove the claims of its alleged monopoly in the social networking market. Last year, Amazon faced its first antitrust lawsuit, and Google has been flooded with these as well. Most of these proceedings are a knee-jerk reaction to the continuously growing market power of businesses that are fundamentally different from conventional supply chains and corporations that sell physical goods. The Internet has changed everything.

U.S. state and federal regulators and their European counterparts are equally puzzled about how best to address the sudden and continuous exponential growth of tech giants, services that have provided vast benefits to consumers. But in a quest to come up with a perfect piece of legislation to tame tech companies, both the EU and the U.S. have lost sight of the far-reaching hand of the Chinese Communist Party and its influence in the digital market and beyond.

TikTok is a well-known case of how one popular app with ties to China can threaten what we in the liberal democracies value most: freedom. A 2019 report released by The Guardian showed that TikTok was as much a social media platform for sharing videos as a strategically organized censorship and propaganda machine.

The app was found to not only have banned specific anti-Chinese government videos, but also promoted various Chinese organizations, ministries, schools, and universities founded outside China that pushed the Communist Party’s narrative. Huawei’s backdoor to mobile networks globally is another example of how technology is used by the Chinese government to undermine national security and privacy in liberal democracies.

The EU and the U.S. should stand up to China and its growing influence in all areas, but especially on the digital front. The potential extent of its surveillance powers in our countries is terrifying. According to a 2019 research by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra, Global Tone Communications Technology Co. Ltd, supervised by China’s Central Propaganda Department, mines data in more than 65 languages from 200+ countries. Since the company is state-owned, the bulk data can be used by others who have access to it.

If left unconstrained, China’s playbook on controlling its citizens could spread to liberal democracies. The EU and the U.S. must work together to develop a common digital strategy to tackle the ever-expanding influence of the CCP.

It is more important that we protect our consumers from a spy country that has detained three million Uyghurs. As such, an EU-U.S. agreement on a digital strategy centered around a shared goal to stop China is paramount to preserving our freedoms.

Originally published here

To Tackle China, the U.S. Should Invest More in Africa

The Biden administration has requested that Congress approve an $80 million package to finance the newly launched Prosper Africa Build Together initiative. The project will focus on fostering trade and investment between the world’s poorest continent and the United States. Given Africa’s ambitious free trade aspirations and China’s ever-growing obsession with the continent, such a move couldn’t come at a better time.

The past few years can hardly be seen as the golden age of free trade in the West. Trade wars combined with persistent attempts to make trade woke—through the integration of environmental or gender causes—have undermined economic exchange globally. However, while European Union governments and the U.S. have imposed sanctions, blocked exports as part of COVID measures, and failed to negotiate new agreements, Africa has been silently making strides toward its own free trading future—with China’s help.

Founded in 2018, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the largest free trade area in the world in terms of participating countries. By removing 90% of tariffs on goods traded among 54 African countries-signees within five to 10 years, the AfCFTA looks likely to become the biggest free trade entity since the 1995 launch of the World Trade Organization. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52% within five years.

As of 2019, intra-African exports accounted for 16.6% of total exports. For comparison, in Europe, the share was 68.1%. If fully implemented, the AfCFTA has the potential to put the continent, long crippled by poverty and corruption, on the path of lasting prosperity.

For international trade, the AfCFTA will mean clearer customs checks and unified market access rules, which could hugely benefit the United States. Africa could become the largest market for the automotive industry. In 2018, Volkswagen and Peugeot Société Anonyme opened their first car plants in Rwanda and Namibia, respectively. Car imports from Africa could become a great alternative to the European imports.

Although ambitious, the AfCFTA is also riddled with implementation problems. Decades of socialist African governments whose main objective was their own enrichment have resulted in substantial infrastructure problems, among other things, in many countries. The construction and modernization of infrastructure combined with establishing efficient customs check procedures is key to making the AfCFTA succeed.

This is where China has stepped in to fill the gap. Last November, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (pictured) said that his government “will provide cash assistance and capacity-building training to its [AfCFTA] secretariat.”

Such support for the AfCFTA is not surprising. Over the years, China has made itself indispensable for Africa’s leaders. Between 2003 and 2019, Chinese foreign direct investment in Africa has increased from $75 million USD in 2003 to $2.7 billion USD in 2019. There is no sign of this trend losing momentum.

Although it can be seen as beneficial to Africa’s development, active Chinese participation in Africa’s development is increasingly worrisome. There is no such thing as free Chinese money. By investing in Africa, China is making the continent indebted, and it won’t hesitate to ask for something in return. Knowing China’s appetites—taking the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka is one example—it is not hard to predict what will happen. Aside from active political involvement, China will also ask for preferential access to the AfCFTA once it is fully functioning.

Africa presents many opportunities for the United States. Almost all African products can freely enter the U.S. through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade preference program launched in 2000. The U.S. has also formally committed to supporting the AfCFTA, but its impact is negligible compared to that of China.

More active engagement from the U.S. in AfCFTA is crucial financially and ideologically. The foundations laid by the AfCFTA today will determine the continent’s fate. U.S. assistance in the form of investments and general support will be key in shaping a better and freer tomorrow for Africans, revitalizing trade globally, and counteracting China’s influence.

Originally published here

Which aspects of China’s basic dictatorship does Trudeau admire most?

In this week’s episode of The Western Voice the State Broadcaster gets first mention as it has been recently exposed that CBC CEO Catherine Tait has been jet setting between her $5.4 million Brooklyn New York home and Ottawa while normal Canadians remain in a miserable pandemic lockdown.

Morgan muses on Trudeau’s obsession with pandering to China makes sense when it is considered that Justin Trudeau had expressed his admiration for China’s “basic dictatorship” in how it aids them getting things done.

A number of things that China has done lately: hold Canadians hostage, arrest journalists and round up members of religious minorities. Admirable indeed.

The broken carbon tax promise will cost Canadians dearly at all levels. An example from just one Saskatchewan farming irrigation collective demonstrates how the proposed 467 percent increase in the carbon tax will likely drive many farmers right out of the industry while Canadian consumers will see increases in basic food costs.

Morgan interviews North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center, David Clement on his recent article on Canada’s supply management system and an international trade initiative called “CANZUK”.

Originally published here

How a coronavirus epidemic in China could ripple through the global economy

An international outbreak of respiratory illness sparked by a novel coronavirus has spread from its origins in central China to at least 11 countries, with more than 1,200 confirmed cases — including a presumed case in Canada — and over 40 deaths.

Like previous outbreaks, including the SARS virus 17 years ago, the flu-like disease poses a risk to economies around the world as fear and confusion lead to abrupt changes in behaviour, decreased economic activity and a ripple effect across sectors that threatens everything from productivity to consumer prices.

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome pandemic of 2003 cost the Chinese economy up to US$20 billion, according to the Asian Development Bank, as travel warnings and transit shutdowns discouraged consumption, foreign tourists stayed away and local residents stopped going out.

“The travel and tourism sectors were most obviously hit, although that ripples through the entire economy,” said Richard Smith, a professor of health economics at the University of Exeter Medical School.

“But many effects are short-lived during an outbreak as once the panic is over people go back to business as usual.”

Chinese authorities clamped down on mass transit during the SARS outbreak, hampering commutes, shopping runs and social outings. The national securities regulatory commission closed stock and futures markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen for two weeks to prevent viral transmission. And Beijing ordered movie theatres, internet cafes and other venues to shut down temporarily while hotels, conference centres, restaurants and galleries saw visitors almost disappear completely.

China’s response to the current crisis appears to be swifter, and the disease less virulent, but the country now boasts a far more extensive high-speed rail network than it did in 2003, and its economy is six times larger, upping the risk of transmission and the repercussions of an epidemic.

“China is the engine of the global economy, churning out goods,” said German health economist Fred Roeder.

Its critical role in international shipping may be thrown into disarray as authorities begin to hold back some ships from entering the port at Wuhan, a key hub on the Yangtze River.

“If they cannot leave it creates huge delays in the supply chain and value chain of businesses all across the world,” Roeder said. “It could actually hit the latest generation of smartphone if ports are shutting down.”

Manufacturing could also feel the crunch as supply chains stall, he said.

Roeder has felt firsthand the disruptive power of a pandemic. In the summer of 2003 the teenage Berliner was eagerly gearing up for a United Nations youth conference that would take him to Taipei, but the event was cancelled a few days beforehand due to SARS.

The epidemic also sparked layoffs and time away from work. At one point Singapore Airlines asked its 6,600 cabin crew to take unpaid leave. Children stayed home from school, prompting more parents to shirk their job duties and further reducing productivity, said AltaCorp Capital analyst Chris Murray.

“I was losing guys left, right and centre as people were quarantined,” recalled Murray, based in Toronto — the epicentre of the SARS pandemic outside of Asia. The disease infected 438 Canadians in total and caused 44 deaths in the Toronto area.

The economic damage culminated with World Health Organization’s one-week travel advisory for the city in April 2003, costing the Canadian economy an estimated $5.25 billion that year.

The outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu, in 2009 also sparked work “dislocations,” Murray said. “It went from, ‘Maybe it’ll be okay,’ to sheer panic.”

Freelancers and gig economy workers such as musicians or ride-hail drivers may feel the pinch more acutely, since they can’t rely on a steady wage when demand shrinks.

“It’s something that unfortunately has happened before in a similar way and it tends to affect areas like retail,” said Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, said this week.

“People don’t go out, they don’t fly in planes, they don’t do as much tourism to the affected areas,” she said.

The fallout makes workers ranging from servers to wholesale bakers to non-unionized hotel staff more vulnerable. Meanwhile spending or investment plans by larger companies may have to be delayed, said Roeder.

It is not clear how lethal the new coronavirus is or even whether it is as dangerous as the ordinary flu, which kills about 3,500 people every year in Canada alone.

Originally published here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 

How Estonia’s cybersecurity strategy can help the EU cope with China

Fred Roeder, a German health economist and the managing director of the Consumer Choice Center, proposes Estonia to lead the European Union to a coherent cybersecurity strategy in order to protect consumers and businesses not only from cyberattacks from Russia but also from potentially much larger attacks and espionage from China.

Within the past twelve years, Estonia has emerged as a leading nation in the field of cyber defence and security. The cyberattacks of 2007 made Tallinn much earlier aware of the massive threat of online attacks compared with its larger NATO allies.

Especially under EU commissioner, Andrus Ansip (nominated by Estonia, Ansip was the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society from 2014 until July 2019 – editor), Estonia has been a driving force behind the European Commission’s new cybersecurity agenda. Estonia now needs to lead the European Union to a coherent cybersecurity strategy in order to protect consumers and businesses not only from cyberattacks from Russia but also from potentially much larger attacks and espionage from China.

China’s backdoors

The adoption of Internet of Things solutions and the highly anticipated rollout of very fast 5G networks will make consumers’ privacy even more vulnerable. The recent events in Hong Kong and the Chinese Communist Party’s reluctance to keep its commitments towards the rule of law are reasons why we must heed caution.

Some governments and manufacturers tend to be mostly concerned about competitiveness through low prices, which is important for consumers. However, we also care about privacy and data security. Therefore, a smart policy response is needed that would incentivise market players to give enough weight to consumer data security in Europe, all the while achieving that goal without undue market distortions and limiting of consumer choice.

n more than just one instance, the Chinese leadership has put legal or extra-legal pressure on private firms to include so-called backdoors in their software or devices, which may be exploited either by government agents alone or with a manufacturer’s help. As a response to threats like this, countries like Australia and the US went so far as to ban the Chinese network equipment manufacturer, Huawei, from its 5G networks.

Pressure on non-European suppliers to adopt the security-by-design approach

While some governments see bans as the best way to protect national security and consumer privacy, we know there is no single silver bullet solution for safeguarding privacy and data security. A mix of solutions is needed, and this mix will likely change over time.

Healthy competition between legal jurisdictions and between private enterprises is the best mechanism for the discovery of the right tools. But those working on cybersecurity solutions should also consider consumer interests. Keeping new regulation technology-neutral, and thus not deciding by law which technological solution is best, allows an agile framework for consumer privacy.

The EU’s current legal rules, like the General Data Protection Regulation, for example, do not provide sufficient clarity regarding liability of network operators for privacy violations made possible by hardware vulnerabilities. Thus, a clear standard of supply chain security must be defined.

Emphasising liability rules for using or reselling software or devices with vulnerabilities would give those rules more teeth and thus incentivise telecommunications operators and others to think about their customers’ privacy during their procurement decisions. This should, in turn, put pressure on non-European suppliers to adopt the security-by-design approach and to take pains to show that they have done so.

Smart regulation needed to prevent autocratic governments from spying on us

In solving the problem of unclear and ineffective legal rules on data security, we must take into account that technical standards should be as technology neutral as possible. Manufacturers from countries that are under scrutiny – such as China – might want to provide purely open-source technology in order to rebuild trust in their products.

Instead, the rules should be focused on outcomes and be as general as possible while still providing sufficient guidance. These standards should be possible to identify and adopt not just by the biggest market players who can easily devote significant resources to regulatory compliance. A certification scheme must be thorough in order to minimise the risk of any backdoors or other critical vulnerabilities.

The debate around 5G reminds us how vulnerable consumers are in a technologically and politically complex world and that cyber threats originate usually in autocratic countries.

Therefore, smart regulation is needed in order to protect consumers from data breaches and to prevent autocratic governments from spying on us. By continuing the legacy of commissioner Ansip’s leadership and strengthening the liability of network operators for technological vulnerabilities, both consumer choice and privacy can be ensured. Blunt instruments like total bans based on country of origin or regulators picking the technological champions should be seen as measures of the last resort.

Originally published here

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Im Kreuzfeuer: 5G, China, Sicherheit und Datenschutz

Schneller und billiger Rollout von 5G vs. Verbraucherschutz?

Nie war Mobilfunk so politisch wie heute. Während die EU-Kommission Vorschläge für ein abgestimmtes Vorgehen der EU zur Sicherheit von 5G-Netzen vorlegt, kritisiert das amerikanische Consumer Choice Center – nicht ohne Ironie -, dass man in der Datenschutzhochburg Europa bei 5G ausgerechnet auf Technologie aus einem Land (= China) setze, in dem der Datenschutz mit Füßen getreten werde.

Nach allerlei Winken mit dem sprichwörtlichen Zaunpfahl seitens der US-Regierung oder regierungsnaher Stellen setzt sich nun auch die liberale Lobbyorganisation Consumer Choice Center kritisch mit dem wachsenden Einfluss chinesischer Anbieter von Mobilfunktechnologie auf dem europäischen Markt auseinander.

Fred Roeder, ein studierter Ökonom, ist Managing Director des Consumer Choice Center in Arlington (Virginia).

Fred Roeder, ein studierter Ökonom, ist Managing Director des Consumer Choice Center in Arlington (Virginia). (Bild: Consumer Choice Center)

Für Fred Roeder, Geschäftsführer des Consumer Choice Center, sollte die Privatsphäre der Verbraucher in dieser Debatte an erster Stelle stehen. “5G bietet eine völlig neue Art der Konnektivität und verspricht enorme Vorteile für das Internet der Dinge. Dies wird begrüßt, aber gleichzeitig sollten sich die europäischen Verbraucher des potenziellen Gepäcks bewusst sein, das einige Infrastrukturanbieter mitbringen”, so Roeder.

“Während die EU eine der strengsten Datenschutzbestimmungen der Welt hat die DSGVO die Geschäftstätigkeit vieler gesetzestreuer Unternehmen in der EU erheblich erschwert hat, sollten wir uns Sorgen machen, dass Technologieunternehmen mit Sitz in Ländern ohne Rechtsstaatlichkeit ein potenzielles Datenschutzrisiko für Verbraucherdaten darstellen. Während ein schneller und billiger Rollout von 5G für einige ein großer Sprung nach vorne sein könnte, müssen wir sicherstellen, dass wir nicht in dunklere Zeiten zurückkehren, wenn es um den Datenschutz der Verbraucher in Europa geht”, erklärt Roeder.

Read more here

China ‘supports millions of American jobs, makes big profits for US firms’, Beijing says

YAHOO NEWS: The document cited the US Consumer Choice Centre as saying that US President Donald Trump’s administration was punishing the American people with its punitive action, saying the tariffs would have a direct impact on 150,000 jobs in North Carolina and 6,500 in South Carolina, both of which are heavily reliant on exports.

End The War on Sugar: Ist der Zucker unser Feind?

Übergewicht und Diabetes stellen ein großes Problem dar. Berichte der WHO veranschaulichen
die Verdreifachung von Fettleibigen in den letzten 45 Jahren.
2016 waren laut den Daten der WHO 39% von Erwachsenen übergewichtig, 13% sogar
fettleibig. Etwa 38 Millionen von Kindern waren 2019 fettleibig oder übergewichtig.
Eine Lösung für das Problem sieht die WHO in der Besteuerung von zuckerhaltigen Getränken.
Durch die Besteuerung soll ein niedrigerer Zuckerkonsum von Verbrauchern erreicht werden.

Zu sagen, dass Zucker eine schlechte Reputation hat, wäre untertrieben. Der Zucker wird für
Übergewicht und Fettleibigkeit verantwortlich gemacht. Er sei der Grund für die
Zivilisationskrankheit Diabetes.

Doch kann Zucker wirklich als Hauptverursacher von Fettleibigkeit verantwortlich gemacht werden?

Zunehmen, Abnehmen und Makronährstoffe

Wir bauen Fett auf indem wir mehr zu uns nehmen, als wir verbrauchen. Der Mensch
konsumiert Produkte, um zu überleben und Energie aufzunehmen.
Diese Energie wird in Kilokalorien (kCal) gemessen. So verbraucht der durchschnittliche
Mensch etwa 2000 kCal am Tag. Der Gesamtumsatz setzt sich zusammen aus dem
Grundumsatz, der dazu benötigt wird um die Grundfunktionen unseres Körpers zu nutzen und
dem Arbeitsumsatz, das sind die Kalorien die verbraucht werden, indem wir (vor Allem)
körperlich arbeiten. Die größten Unterschiede innerhalb der Bevölkerung ergeben sich aus
diesem Arbeitsumsatz. Wer sich mehr bewegt, ob bei der Arbeit oder in der Freizeit, der
verbraucht auch mehr. Unterschiede von mehreren Tausend Kalorien sind dabei nicht
ungewöhnlich. Nimmt man mehr Kalorien auf, als unser Gesamtumsatz befinden wir uns in
einem Kalorienüberschuss.

Wir sehen: Neben der Nahrungsaufnahme steht der Faktor des Energieverbrauchs.

Geht es um den Körperfettanteil ist es auch egal, ob wir den Kalorienüberschuss durch eine
überhöhte Anzahl von Kohlenhydraten, Fett, oder Proteinen erreicht haben. Letztendlich ist die
Kalorienbilanz entscheidend, d.h. ob wir mehr zu uns nehmen, als wir verbrauchen. In einer
vielzahl von belastbaren Studien konnten keine signifikanten Unterschiede zwischen
kohlenhydratreichen und kohlenhydratarmen Diäten festgestellt werden.

Zucker und Übergewicht

Ist Zucker der Grund für den Speckbauch?

In den Vereinigten Staaten kann eine gute Datenlage und Langzeitstudien zu diesem Thema vorgefunden werden. Durch eine Studie des US Department of Agriculture wurde das Essverhalten der Amerikaner zwischen 1970 und 2014 untersucht. US-Amerikaner

konsumierten 2014 täglich etwa 374 kCal mehr als im Jahre 1970. Von diesen 374 kCal machen Zucker und andere kalorische Süßungsmittel etwa 33 kCal aus. Nur als Vergleich: Um 1 kg Fett aufzubauen, muss man einen Kalorienüberschuss von etwa 7000 kCal erreichen. Hier eine Liste von Lebensmitteln mit einer ähnlichen Kalorienanzahl, wie 33 kCal: Eine Scheibe Roggenknäckebrot (38 kCal), 100g Erdbeeren (das sind etwa 5 Erdbeeren: 33 kCal), 50g von einem Apfel (das ist in etwa ein Drittel eines ganzen Apfels: 27 kCal). 

Das ist nicht alles. Analysiert man die Daten des USDA im Bezug auf Zucker, kann man beobachten, dass der Zuckerkonsum in den USA seit Erreichen eines Höchstwerts in 1999 stetig sinkt. 1999 machten zugesetzte Zucker 422,6 KCal in der amerikanischen Diät aus. 2016 sind es 357,7 KCal. Die Raten an Übergewichtigen steigen dennoch. So waren 1999 30,5% der Erwachsenen und 13,9% der Jugendlichen übergewichtig. 2016 waren es 39,6% bei Erwachsenen, sowie 18,5% bei Jugendlichen. 

Wie sieht die Datenlage in Deutschland aus? Zwischen 1990 und 2001 ist der Zuckerverbrauch pro Kopf in Deutschland von 35,1 kg auf jährlich 35,3 kg gestiegen. 2011 lag der Konsum bei 35,6 kg. Das sind 0,5 kg Zucker mehr pro Jahr. Zucker hat eine Kaloriendichte von 405 kCal pro 100 Gramm. Umgerechnet bedeutet das, dass die deutschen jährlich 2025 kCal mehr an Zucker konsumieren. Umgerechnet pro Tag, sind das etwa 5,5 KCal. Auch in Deutschland kann es deshalb nicht alleine am Zucker liegen. 

Die Daten aus den Vereinigten Staaten und Deutschland sind sind keineswegs einzigartig. Ein weiterer Staat mit ähnlichen Daten ist Australien. 

Auch dort konnte man beobachten, dass der Zuckerkonsum sinkt und gleichzeitig die immer mehr Menschen übergewichtig sind

Noch viel interessanter ist die Datenlage im Vereinigten Königreich. Aus verschiedenen Studien ergibt sich, dass sowohl die Anzahl von Kalorien, als auch die Menge von Zucker, die die Briten verbrauchen seit Jahren sinken. Die Briten sind vorbildlich, wenn es um gesunde Ernährung und Kaufverhalten geht. Beispielsweise konsumieren sie tendenziell mehr Früchte und Gemüse, als die meisten anderen europäischen Staaten. Dennoch steigt auch dort die Zahl von Übergewichtigen. 

Die Diskrepanz zwischen steigendem Übergewicht und teilweise sogar sinkendem Zuckerkonsum lässt sich jedoch erklären. Seit Jahren nehmen Menschen in diesen Ländern mehr Kalorien zu sich, als sie verbrennen. Im Vereinigten Königreich ging in den letzten 50 Jahren die Kalorieneinnahme stetig zurück. Die tägliche Kalorienverbrennung jedoch noch stärker und das verursacht Gewichtszunahme, Zucker als Teil unserer Ernährung ist naturgemäß ein Teil der Gleichung, aber nicht der entscheidende. Weder in den USA, Deutschland, UK, oder in anderen Ländern passiert etwas untypisches. Was zählt, ist die Kalorienbilanz.

Insulinresistenz, Diabetes und andere Krankheiten 

Eine weitere Krankheit, die mit Zucker und Kohlenhydraten in Verbindung gebracht wird, ist Diabetes Typ2. Aber wird Diabetes tatsächlich durch Zucker verursacht? Diabetes ist eine komplexe Krankheit. Die Ernährung spielt eine Rolle, darüber hinaus der Körperfettanteil, sowie davon unabhängige genetische Umstände. 

Wie genau wird Diabetes verursacht? Es ist ein Zusammenfallen von Insulinresistenz und vom Versagen der Betazellen in der Bauchspeicheldrüse, die für die Insulinproduktion und dessen

Transport ins Blut verantwortlich sind. Die Produktion der Betazellen ist genetisch determiniert. Die Begriffe Insulinsensitivität und -resistenz beschreiben die Fähigkeit von Organen auf Insulin zu reagieren. Ein Mensch mit hoher Insulinsensibilität reagiert stärker auf Insulin. Umgekehrt kann eine Insulinresistenz entstehen, die zu Diabetes (und anderen Krankheiten) führen kann. Der Umstand der dabei die größte Rolle spielt, ist der Körperfettanteil, beziehungsweise Übergewicht. Menschen mit Übergewicht haben grundsätzlich eine schlechtere Insulinsensitivität. 

Weitere belastende Faktoren, die eine bedeutende Rolle spielen, sind beispielsweise, aber nicht abschließend der physische und psychische Stress, Rauchen von Tabak, Alkoholkonsum, sowie eine fehlende körperliche Betätigung. Es ist das Gewicht, beziehungsweise der hohe BMI der am Stärksten mit Diabetes-Typ-2 korreliert

Welche Rolle spielt dabei der Zucker? 

In einer Zusammenfassung von Studien aus dem Jahr 2016 wird gezeigt, dass eine Verbindung von Zucker und Diabetes nicht festgestellt werden kann. Gerade in Mengen, in denen Zucker von der Allgemeinbevölkerung verzehrt wird, scheint keine Auswirkung auf die Insulinsensitivität vorzuliegen. 

Zuckerkonsum- und Diabetesstatsitiken aus verschiedenen Ländern untermauern diese Feststellung. So kann man in den USA seit 1999 einen Rückgang an Zuckerverbrauch beobachten (USDA Daten). Dennoch steigt die Anzahl an Diabetikern deutlich. China, mit einer deutlich niedrigeren Rate an Zuckerkonsum in der Bevölkerung, hat einen vergleichbaren Anteil an Diabetikern wie die Vereinigten Staaten

Im Vereinigten Königreich können wir, wie oben schon beschrieben sowohl einen Rückgang von Zuckerverbrauch, als auch von der Menge an täglich verzehrten Kalorien beobachten. Auch hier steigt die Rate von Diabetes. 

Zusammenfassend lässt sich sagen, dass die meisten Behauptungen über die gesundheitlichen Auswirkungen von Zucker nicht isoliert betrachtet werden sollten. Die Gründe für Übergewicht sind eine zu hohe Energiezufuhr bei zu wenig körperlicher Betätigung. 

Dieses Übergewicht führt zu gesundheitlichen Problemen, wie Insulinresistenz und Diabetes. Zwar ist Zucker als Teil unserer Ernährung indirekt ein Teil des Problems. Das ist es aber nur in dem Zusammenhang mit allen anderen Nährstoffen und Produkten, die wir konsumieren. Unsere Ernährung besteht aus verschiedenen Produkten. Nur wenige davon haben direkt schädliche Auswirkungen auf unsere Gesundheit. Vielmehr sollte unsere Ernährung und die Produkte, die sie ausmachen immer gemeinsam in einem Kontext betrachtet werden. 

Im zweiten Teil dieser Serie zum Thema Zucker wird analysiert, inwiefern Zuckersteuern zu einem Rückgang von Übergewicht führen können. Dazu werden die Erfahrungen in verschiedenen Ländern betrachtet.

Crypto Hunters: Why Elites are Anxious About Cryptocurrencies

Over the last decade, while we have lived through the ebbs and flows of global crises, triumphs, and changes, a ‘paradigm shift’ has been happening across a network of interconnected computers. This shift began in 2008 when the pseudonymous ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ unveiled his new project: a trustless peer-to-peer network of monetary transactions that would be recorded on a decentralized public ledger. This new version of ‘electronic cash’ was called Bitcoin.

A Bitcoin is created by computers attempting to solve a cryptographic algorithm—a process known as “mining”—which are then ‘rewarded’ with units of monetary representation for having solved the block of code. Once miners have these monetary units, they can send them across the network to other addresses, quickly and with minimal fees.

What made this process wholly unique was its decentralized nature: multiple nodes connected to a network to verify transactions and blocks, and to ensure that every line of code was accurate to the ledger—also known as a ‘blockchain.’

The Bitcoin source code became the envy of computer programmers, hackers, and an entire generation of “cypherpunks”: technology activists who advocated the use of cryptography to achieve true privacy. This was the dawn of the cryptocurrency age.

As users of the network grew, so did copycat projects. The numbers of vendors accepting cryptocurrencies also grew and eventually an entire economy of digital assets emerged, far from the heavily regulated (and policed) financial sector.

Today, that global cryptocurrency and digital asset economy is worth more than $2 trillion, surpassing the GDP of some G7 nations, including Canada and Italy.

Cryptos in the crosshairs

Today—owing to their size, reach, and utility—cryptocurrencies are no longer mere projects of tinkering computer programmers. Prices of Bitcoin and other digital currencies are commonplace on stock tickers. They are found in the portfolios of large financial institutions. And, at least in the case of Bitcoin, they are now considered legal tender in a country like El Salvador.

But the growth and mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies has necessarily put them in the crosshairs of various regulatory authorities who want to restrict their use. Often authorities have said that this is because of the volatile, speculative nature of cryptocurrencies, which can sometimes have a percentage rise (or fall) in the double digits in just a matter of hours. Authorities have also pointed to various scams that have swindled users of their ‘coins.’ 

At other times, however, there is a worrying sense that ‘crypto’ is evolving faster than regulators can even grasp, offering unique lending, payment, and exchange options that exist—without a central authority.   

In a recent Bloomberg podcast, Christine Lagarde, former IMF director and now president of the European Central Bank, said: “Cryptos are not currencies, full stop. Cryptos are highly speculative assets that claim their fame as currency, possibly, but they’re not. They are not.” Lagarde thus joins the chorus of central bank chiefs, finance ministers, and treasury secretaries that have warned of the unique threat posed by cryptos to the global system of traditional financial markets.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has been one of the more vocal Bitcoin foes, saying recently that he “always believed it’ll be made illegal someplace, like China made it illegal, so I think it’s a little bit of fool’s gold,” and calling on lawmakers to “regulate the hell out of it.”

As decentralized digital assets proliferate, the limited ability of established agencies to oversee and limit transactions means that value is being exchanged outside a guarded or protected system—far from the prying eyes of tax authorities, banking chiefs, and issuers of national currencies.

This, however, is one of the main advantages of using digital assets clocked according to cryptographic algorithms and a real, free market of floating prices: without a central authority, the ability to inflate or deflate the currencies via a printing press or by minting coins is rendered null.

A hedge against the state

When the main unit of exchange is a national currency, the value of that currency is subject to exchange prices. But it also may be inflated or deflated on a whim, based on the needs of the state—for instance, to pay back debts, wage wars, or boost or reduce exports.

Whether it was Roman Emperor Diocletian—who debased the Roman currency and instituted price controls in his 301 AD Edict on Maximum Prices—or the hyperinflation of the German Weimar Republic in the 1920s, or even the abandoning of the Gold Standard by Richard Nixon in 1971, the debasing of currencies serves a purpose that befits a nation and its institutions, and not necessarily its people.

Furthermore, today we see this: U.S. $100 in 1960 are the equivalent of US$886 in 2021. This makes life generally more expensive for those who use U.S. dollars, who must purchase goods and services that may or may not follow the trendline of inflation.

By fixing supply indefinitely—21 million, in the case of Bitcoin—holders of the coin are assured that its value will never be artificially inflated or deflated based on the whims of central monetary authorities, offering peace of mind to investors, savers, and holders (or HODLers).

What’s more, because of the cryptographic process of mining coins and the distributed public ledger of the blockchain, no one can cheat the system. Double-spending, mining new coins without proof of work, or conducting fake transactions cannot happen. And because each account or ‘wallet’ is protected by a “seed phrase”—essentially a private key—there is no way to physically seize accounts or stop payments.

These basic features of cryptocurrencies, as well as their ability to be traded without intermediaries demanding strict compliance (using things like social security numbers, identification cards, tax numbers, etc.) entirely removes governments from transactions. If the financial system were based on these principles and methods, it would make it difficult for the European Central Bank or the Federal Reserve to create new currency, adjust prices, or bail out firms or entities that have made mistakes in times of crisis.

Adapt or die

Given how widespread the trading and use of crypto has become, many in positions of authority have realized that they must reckon with its power. As voiced by Gary Gensler, head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the innovative nature of Bitcoin has been a ‘wake-up call’ to the financial sector. “Nakamoto’s innovation, not only Bitcoin as the first sort of one but this whole distributed ledger technology, has been a catalyst for change that, around the globe, central banks and the private sector are looking in on how we can enhance our payment systems,” Gentler told The Washington Post.

Gensler’s comments demonstrate that officials and ruling elites are taking crypto innovations more seriously. They also suggest that they recognize that the revolution that has begun cannot be stopped.

A group at the U.S. Department of Treasury, led by Gensler and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, will soon debut official recommendations on regulating the crypto sector by focusing on “stablecoins,” which are digital assets pegged to the value of national currencies for easier convertibility. And in the European Union, the European Commission has tabled a proposal on “Markets in Crypto-Assets Regulation,” focusing on the investment trends of cryptocurrencies and how consumers and users could be impacted by wild price swings.

Core to each of these regulatory efforts are mechanisms designed to tame the so-called “wild West” of crypto. These include plans to regulate fiat-to-crypto exchanges, deeming various cryptocurrencies as securities, and increasing financial surveillance of the crypto market in order to ensure tax compliance.

There is little doubt that many of these regulations will come to pass. Whether firms or crypto users continue to stay in these jurisdictions, however, remains to be seen. While our current monetary system rests on national currencies and regulated banks, every new user of a cryptocurrency unlocks the potential of a system that cannot be overruled, made redundant, or inflated away.

While regulators can claim significant authority on regulated exchanges or payment providers, the decentralized, distributed nature of crypto means that the currencies themselves cannot be controlled or influenced arbitrarily—and perhaps that is the fact that scares authorities the most.

Originally published here

Not all PFAS are the same, and why this matters for future regulation

On 17 October, a stakeholder consultation led by the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway on the use of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) closed. By 2022, the European Chemicals Agency is expected to submit its restriction proposal for the use of PFAS in firefighting foams and other products. Combined with pressure from green groups calling for complete avoidance of these chemicals, the European Union is on the brink of a very costly and unfeasible policy move: a complete PFAS ban.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that can be found in a variety of consumer products. Some popular uses include medical equipment, food packaging, and firefighting foam. In the case of medical equipment, for example, these chemical compounds are vital for contamination-resistant gowns and drapes, implantable medical devices, stent grafts, heart patches, sterile container filters, needle retrieval systems, tracheostomies, catheter guide wire for laparoscopy, and inhaler canister coatings.

However, that is not to say that all of these chemicals are safe. When improperly dumped into the water supply, or when the exposure exceeds specific threshold levels, they do pose a danger. These concerns are justified and shouldn’t be understated or misrepresented. At the same time, they shouldn’t direct our attention away from the benefits of PFAS in certain production processes.

Because of their chemical resistance and surface tension lowering properties, PFAS are hard and expensive to replace. A complete ban would put the production of these vital consumer items in jeopardy and patient safety at risk. Declaring all PFAS hazardous without first considering risks associated with each use, and considering the feasibility and safety of alternatives, is a dangerous policy path.

In the United States, calls for a complete ban are also dominating the discourse. The PFAS Action Act, which is currently under review in the Senate, fails to consider that all these chemicals carry different risks depending on their use and exposure levels. The European Union’s approach aims to achieve similar outcomes. The idea is to divide PFAS into two groups: essential and non-essential. However, eventually, all are sought to be phased out.

Both strategies turn a blind eye to the uncomfortable evidence-based truth about these chemicals. PFAS have already been largely phased out from being used where they are not necessary. A  2018 Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry  says that “Industrial releases have been declining since companies began phasing out the production and use of several perfluoroalkyls in the early 2000s.”

A complete ban on PFAS being used also doesn’t necessarily mean that these man-made chemicals will cease to be produced or sold. The unintended consequence of extremely restrictive policies is a spike in production elsewhere. Bans in the EU and US will likely result in China ramping up their production. And given how necessary PFAS can be for both medical equipment, and consumer goods, an EU or US ban would be simply shifting production to countries who largely fail to meet general standards for environmental stewardship.

It is crucial that while assessing PFAS, policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic do not fall prey to calls for complete avoidance. PFAS are diverse and while some of them might need to be restricted or banned, others are crucial and necessary, as in the case of medical equipment. One size doesn’t fit all, and the necessary uses of PFAS, especially when they don’t pose a risk to human health, shouldn’t be left out of the discourse.

Originally published here

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