HEADLINES:

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Stop selling products: Russian lawmaker to Coke, McDonald's

[PHOTO: ChadPerez49/CC BY-SA 4.0]
Moscow: A senior pro-Kremlin lawmaker has suggested U.S. food giants Coca-Cola and McDonald's should stop selling their products in Russia.

Aleksei Pushkov, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, made the remarks on Twitter on March 5.

Pushkov wrote, "Don't McDonald's and Coca-Cola want to support [U.S. President Barack] Obama's sanctions and rid us of their products?"

"They would be true to principles and we would be healthier," he added.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and companies over Moscow's interference in Ukraine.

Part of Russia's response has been a ban on many Western food imports.
  
McDonald's and Coca-Cola have been popular in Russia for years.

Several McDonald's restaurants in Russia were temporarily shut last year, ostensibly for consumer-protection reasons, in what many observers believe was a politically motivated campaign.

Twitter, a social-media site Pushkov has frequently used to criticize the United States, is based in the United States.
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WHO urges world to slash sugar intake

[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Geneva: The World Health Organization issued a new guidance recommending adults and children to reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. 

A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams or 6 teaspoons a day would provide additional health benefits.

Free sugars refer to monosaccharides, such as glucose, fructose and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

The WHO guideline does not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk, because there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars.

Worldwide intake of free sugars varies by age, setting and country. In Europe, intake in adults ranges from about 7-8% of total energy intake in countries like Hungary and Norway, to 16-17% in countries like Spain and the United Kingdom. Intake is much higher among children, ranging from about 12% in countries like Denmark, Slovenia and Sweden, to nearly 25% in Portugal. There are also rural/urban differences. In rural communities in South Africa intake is 7.5%, while in the urban population it is 10.3%.

The WHO recommendations are based on analysis of the latest scientific evidence which shows that adults who consume less sugars have lower body weight. 

Research also shows that children with the highest intakes of sugar-sweetened drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese than children with a low intake of sugar-sweetened drinks.

The recommendation is further supported by evidence showing higher rates of dental caries (commonly referred to as tooth decay) when the intake of free sugars is above 10% of total energy intake compared with an intake of free sugars below 10% of total energy intake.

Based on the quality of supporting evidence, these recommendations are ranked by WHO as "strong". This means they can be adopted as policy in most situations.

Given the nature of existing studies, the recommendation of reducing intake of free sugars to below 5% of total energy is presented as "conditional" in the WHO system for issuing evidence-based guidance.

Few epidemiological studies have been undertaken in populations with a low sugars intake. Only three national population-wide studies allow a comparison of dental caries with sugars intakes of less than 5% of total energy intake versus more than 5% but less than 10% of total energy intake.

These population-based ecological studies were conducted during a period when sugars availability dropped dramatically from 15kg per person per year before the Second World War to a low of 0.2kg per person per year in 1946. This "natural experiment", which demonstrated a reduction in dental caries, provides the basis for the recommendation that reducing the intake of free sugars below 5% of total energy intake would provide additional health benefits in the form of reduced dental caries.

WHO issues conditional recommendations even when the quality of evidence may not be strong on issues of public health importance. A conditional recommendation is one where the desirable effects of adhering to the recommendation probably outweigh the undesirable effects but these trade-offs need to be clarified; therefore, stakeholder dialogue and consultations are needed before the recommendation is implemented as policy.

Updating the guideline on free sugars intake is part of WHO's on-going efforts to update existing dietary goals to prevent NCDs. The sugars guidelines should be used in conjunction with other nutrient guidelines and dietary goals, in particular those related to fats and fatty acids, including saturated fat and trans-fat.

In March 2014, WHO opened a public consultation on the then draft sugars guideline to seek inputs from all stakeholders. More than 170 comments were received from representatives of government agencies, United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations, industries and academic institutions as well as other interested individuals. An expert peer review process was also undertaken in 2014. The final guideline was prepared taking into account comments received from the public consultation and expert peer review.

Countries can translate the recommendations into food-based dietary guidelines that consider locally available food and customs. Additionally, some countries are implementing other public health interventions to reduce free sugars intake. These include nutrition labelling of food products, restricting marketing to children of food and non-alcoholic drinks that are high in free sugars, fiscal policies targeting foods and beverages high in free sugars, and dialogue with food manufacturers to reduce free sugars in processed foods. -UNifeed
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Delhi gang-rape convict's remarks 'unspeakable': UN

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's
spokesperson Stephane Dujarric
[PHOTO: DPI/UN]
Washington: The remarks by one of the Delhi gangrape convict blaming the victim for the assault are "unspeakable", UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson has said.

Ban's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said these while stressing the need for men to get involved in halting violence against women.

He refused to further comment on the remarks made by Mukesh Singh, the driver of the bus in which the 23-year-old paramedical student was brutally gangraped by six men on December 16, 2012.

"I'm not going to comment on the unspeakable comments that were made by the person accused of raping this girl, but I think the Secretary-General has spoken very clearly on the need to halt violence against women and on the need for men to get involved in halting violence against women and decrying it loud and clear every time it occurs," Dujarric told reporters.

In an interview for a BBC documentary on the rape of the girl, Singh appeared unrepentant for the abhorrent crime.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has banned the documentary on the 2012 gang rape 'India's Daughter' follwing wide public outrage over documentary.

The government has secured a court injunction to stop the airing of the documentary across all media platforms in India.
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World Bank raises Kenya's growth projections to 6pct

[PHOTO: Xiaojun Deng/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
Nairobi: Buoyed by falling oil prices, Kenya’s growth is projected to rise from 5.4 percent in 2014 to 6-7 percent over the next three years (2015-2017), making it one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa according to the latest Kenya Economic Update (KEU) published by the World Bank.

The eleventh edition of the KEU notes that external and internal balances are expected to improve significantly, thanks to falling oil prices. In addition public investment in infrastructure, mainly in energy and standard gauge railways, will strengthen growth in the medium term.

“Kenya is emerging as one of Africa’s key growth centers with sound economic policies in place for future improvement” said Diarietou Gaye, the World Bank’s Country Director for Kenya. “To sustain momentum, Kenya needs to continue investing in infrastructure and jobs, improve its business climate, and boost it exports.”

The report says that the country’s expansive fiscal policy allowed it to finance major infrastructure projects without putting excessive pressure on domestic financing. “Kenya’s accommodative monetary policy stance has supported economic activities without triggering inflation or putting pressure on the exchange rate.” said John Randa, World Bank Group’s Senior Economist for Kenya and lead author of the report.

Challenges remain

Sluggish demand for exports and their declining production is widening the country’s current account deficit. The report suggests that in order to anchor and sustain growth, Kenya needs to boost productivity and improve the business environment to regain and increase its competitiveness.

In recent years the manufacturing’s contribution to Kenyan exports and growth has fallen behind and performance has been less than optimal. “Kenya needs to increase the competitiveness of its manufacturing sector so that the country can grow, export, and create much-needed jobs, said Maria Paulina Mogollon, World Bank Group’s Private Sector Development Specialist and a co-author of the report.       

A strong manufacturing sector will create more employment, especially for young people in Kenya. The report suggests that this will also increase exports and reduce the country’s external vulnerability from a widening account deficit.

The report highlights key steps for Kenya to take including  implementing the business reform agenda, completing reforms at the port of Mombasa, improving the efficiency of its massive infrastructural projects, strengthening governance, improving productivity, and continuing to maintain macroeconomic stability.

The KEU is prepared by the World Bank in collaboration with stakeholders from the government especially the members of the Economic Roundtable who include the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, Central Bank of Kenya, Kenya School of Monetary Studies, Kenya Vision 20130 Secretariat, Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the International Monetary Fund.
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Cosmic showers halt galaxy growth, finds Chandra observatory

[Image Credit: NASA/CXC/DSS/Magellan] 
Washington: Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have found that the growth of galaxies containing supermassive black holes can be slowed down by a phenomenon referred to as cosmic precipitation.

Cosmic precipitation is not a weather event, as we commonly associate the word -- rain, sleet, or snow. Rather, it is a mechanism that allows hot gas to produce showers of cool gas clouds that fall into a galaxy. Researchers have analyzed X-rays from more than 200 galaxy clusters, and believe that this gaseous precipitation is key to understanding how giant black holes affect the growth of galaxies.
“We know that precipitation can slow us down on our way to work,” said Mark Voit of Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, lead author of the paper that appears in the latest issue of Nature. “Now we have evidence that it can also slow down star formation in galaxies with huge black holes.”

Astronomers have long pursued the quest to understand how supermassive black holes, which can be millions or even billions of times the mass of the sun, affect their host galaxies.

“We’ve known for quite some time that supermassive black holes influence the growth of their host galaxies, but we haven’t yet figured out all of the details,” said co-author Megan Donahue, also of MSU. “These results get us a step closer.”

The study looked at some of the largest known galaxies lying in the middle of galaxy clusters. These galaxies are embedded in enormous atmospheres of hot gas. This hot gas should cool and many stars should then form. However, observations show that something is hindering the star birth.

The answer appears to lie with the supermassive black holes at the centers of the large galaxies. Under specific conditions, clumps of gas can radiate away their energy and form cool clouds that mix with surrounding hot gas. Some of these clouds form stars, but others rain onto the supermassive black hole, triggering jets of energetic particles that push against the falling gas and reheat it, preventing more stars from forming. This cycle of cooling and heating creates a feedback loop that regulates the growth of the galaxies.

“We can say that a typical weather forecast for the center of a massive galaxy is this: cloudy with a chance of heat from a huge black hole,” said co-author Greg Bryan of Columbia University in New York.

Voit and his colleagues used Chandra data to estimate how long it should take for the gas to cool at different distances from the black holes in the study. Using that information, they were able to accurately predict the “weather” around each of the black holes.

They found that the precipitation feedback loop driven by energy produced by the black hole jets prevents the showers of cold clouds from getting too strong. The Chandra data indicate the regulation of this precipitation has been going on for the last 7 billion years or more.

“Without these black holes and their jets, the central galaxies of galaxy clusters would have many more stars than they do today,” said co-author Michael McDonald of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

While a rain of cool clouds appears to play a key role in regulating the growth of some galaxies, the researchers have found other galaxies where the cosmic precipitation had shut off. The intense heat in these central galaxies, possibly from colliding with another galaxy cluster, likely “dried up” the precipitation around the black hole.

Future studies will test whether this precipitation-black hole feedback process also regulates star formation in smaller galaxies, including our own Milky Way galaxy.
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