Open Letter to WHO-Director General on Industrial Animal Farming

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Unprecedented and rising levels of industrial animal farming are undermining the highest attainable standard of health that is WHO’s mandate. During the 2016 World Health Assembly, Director-General Margaret Chan highlighted climate change, antibiotic resistance, and chronic diseases as “slow-motion disasters.” However, their fundamental link to industrial animal farming has continued to be disregarded.  A group of scientists and advocates have written an Open Letter to  the new Director General of the World Health Organization that describes industrial animal farming as a serious global health challenge. The letter makes the case that while the consumption of meat and other animal products is part of most cultures, large-scale industrial animal farming has gone beyond satisfying dietary needs and cultural practices. The extent to which we now produce and consume animal products is harming our health.

New York City to Trump: You go low, we go local

The Trump Administration has postponed implementation of the Food and Drug Administration’s menu labeling rules, but New York City is moving ahead with its own set of rules, reports Convenience Store News.  On May 18, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all city chain food retailers offering prepared foods, or “restaurant-type foods,” will be required to post calorie counts on menu boards. In addition, chain restaurants and retailers will be required to have full nutritional information — not just calories — for standard menu items available on site, and they will have to post a statement about the daily recommended caloric intake of 2,000 calories.

Traders, guns, and money: The effects of mass shootings on stock prices of firearm manufacturers in the U.S.

A new study in PLOS ONE  investigates how mass shootings influence the stock price of firearms manufacturers. While it is well known that mass shootings lead to increased firearms sales, the response from financial markets is unclear. On one hand, given the observed short-term increase in demand, firearm stock prices may rise due to the unexpected financial windfall for the firm. On the other, mass shootings may result in calls for regulation of the industry, leading to divestment of firearms stocks in spite of short-term demand. The study examines this tension using a market movement event study in the wake of 93 mass shootings in the U.S. between 2009 and 2013. Findings show that stock prices of firearm manufacturers decline after shootings; each event reducing prices between 22.4 and 49.5 basis points, per day. These losses are exacerbated by the presence of a handgun and the number of victims killed, but not affected by the presence of children or location of the event. Finally, the study finds that these effects are most prevalent in the period 2009–2010 but disappear in later events, indicating that markets appear to have accepted mass shootings as the “new normal.”

The role of industry lobbies in the climate negotiations

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BINGO, for Business and Industry NGO, is, in French, “non-governmental organizations in business and industry,” writes Simon Ross in Le Monde. With such an acronym, it’s no wonder some voices are wondering about the jackpot that could benefit the economic players present in the climate negotiations! The issue of the presence of lobbyists is in any case taken very seriously by the delegates of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bonn, Germany this week. “Hundreds of trade associations have access to climate negotiations, and many of them are funded by some of the world’s largest polluters and climate skeptics,” said Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, from the US-based NGO Corporate Accountability International(CAI). “They represent the main obstacle to raising the level of ambition of action against global warming.”  A new report by CAI called Inside Job: Big Polluters’ lobbyists on the inside at the UNFCCC documents the role of these business organizations.

Types and Distribution of Payments from Industry to Physicians in 2015

According to data from 2015 Open Payments reports, reports a new study in JAMA, 48% of physicians were reported to have received a total of $2.4 billion in payments from biomedical and pharmaceutical industries and group purchasing organizations.  Physicians in surgical vs primary care specialties and male vs female physicians had a higher likelihood and higher value of payments.

Why is the market ignoring the fact that gun sales are booming?

Just because gun sales aren’t booming at the same rate they were during the biggest year ever for firearms manufacturers, that doesn’t mean they’re not still rising, writes Fox Business News. Yet the way the market responded to the FBI release of April gun buyer background-check data, you’d think we were in the midst of a major downturn. The fact is, gun sales are surging; 2016 was the biggest year for gun sales. The FBI processed more than 27.5 million background checks last year, 19% more than it had the year before and more than double the number it did a decade ago. Gun sales were mostly driven by political considerations, as many gun owners and enthusiasts anticipated a different outcome in the presidential elections last November. When Donald Trump came out on top, the threat of new gun control legislation was largely removed from the table, and the need to buy a gun right away before new laws were enacted waned. But it didn’t eliminate the demand for new guns; it just deferred them. Gun control doesn’t really affect demand, only the timing of the purchase, typically pulling forward sales that would occur anyway. And that’s what we’re seeing with the FBI’s numbers so far in 2017.

The Powerful Corporations Pushing to Unravel Protections for Consumers, Public Health, and the Environment

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In mid-May, writes the Center for American Progress,  the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to consider the Regulatory Accountability Act, or RAA, a dangerous piece of legislation that will make it harder—if not impossible—for federal agencies to do their jobs to protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices; protect the environment from pollution; and protect public health from exposure to toxic chemicals and unsafe food. Although the Senate sponsors are working to position the bill as moderate relative to its House companion, it is far from reasonable and will open new doors for powerful corporations to block federal agencies trying to serve the public interest.  During the first three months of 2017, most of the largest trade associations in the country walked the halls of Congress pushing for the RAA. If this bill were to become law, the biggest winners would be the powerful corporations that have lobbied to pass it.

Tracking the Effects of Corporate Practices on Health