Sugar tax would benefit low income groups

A sugar tax would provide the most health benefits to low income groups without excessively punishing them in the hip pocket, Australian researchers say.

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In-depth economic analysis of a 20 per cent tax on sweetened beverages conducted at Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre found that the lowest socio-economic groups would only contribute $5 per year, or 10 cents a week, more in tax compared to wealthier groups.

Lead author Anita Lal, a PhD candidate in Deakin’s School of Health and Social Development, says the finding debunks one of the major criticisms of a proposed sugar sweetened beverage tax – that it would unfairly target poorer families.

“We estimated the increase in annual spending on sugar sweetened beverages would be an average of $30 per person, or just 60 cents per week, a reasonable cost when the health benefits are taken into account,” Ms Lal said.

While those in disadvantaged areas would pay slightly more tax, the difference was very small, Ms Lal said.

“The lowest groups would pay $35 per year and the highest groups would pay $30,” she said.

The study published in journal PLOS Medicine looked at predicted changes in consumption levels due to a change in price, then converted that to a change in population body mass index, which helped predict the reduction in the prevalence of certain diseases related to obesity.

“Things like heart disease, some types of cancers and diabetes would be reduced as a result of a reduction in BMI and these are then converted to life years saved,” Ms Lal told AAP.

The report also found a sugar tax could save $1.73 billion in healthcare costs over the lifetime of the population, and annual tax revenue was estimated at $642.9 million.

Ms Lal says a sugar tax isn’t going to solve obesity on its own but it is an important part of the solution.

“It’s about making the healthy choice, the easier and more affordable choice.”

Research supervisor Professor Anna Peeters says the equity of the tax could be even further improved if the government revenue was used to fund initiatives benefiting those with greater disadvantage.

“In Australia right now almost two in three adults are overweight or obese, and a quarter of all children,” Prof Peeters said.

She says something has to be done.

“A sugar sweetened beverage tax has been in place in Mexico for two years, and a drop in sales has been observed over the same period,” she said.

“They’ve also seen the biggest drop in consumption in their most disadvantaged groups.”

Burling excited to take Auld Mug to NZ

Peter Burling is looking forward to “a pretty cool few weeks” sharing his America’s Cup win with the rest of New Zealand after celebrating the conclusion of a gruelling campaign with his opponent Jimmy Spithill in Bermuda.

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The 26-year-old calmly steered his way into yachting history, demolishing Spithill’s Oracle Team USA to win the Auld Mug.

“It was our goal and dream to come here and win the America’s Cup and to have it sitting there and have it in the morning meeting when we all got together after a bit of recovery from last night, we’re just blown away,” Burling said.

Burling, an Olympic gold and silver medallist, was helmsman on Emirates Team New Zealand and the face of the crew during the campaign to wrest the Auld Mug from its US holders.

The celebrations following the win in the New Zealand team’s shed where they have kept their space-age 50-foot catamaran and wing sail were “pretty low key,” with the crew only realising how drained they were once the adrenaline wore off.

“We finally realised how tired we were and how most of us didn’t really have that much energy to carry on,” Burling said.

Burling said the losing US team, led by his good friend Spithill, had joined the New Zealanders in their celebration.

“They came over and said congrats last night and we invited them in. It was pretty cool to be able to share it with them.”

A beaming Burling, with the normally closely-guarded silver trophy standing behind him, said it was “impossible to compare” the victory with the gold medal he and fellow crew member Blair Tuke won in Rio de Janeiro last year in the 49er skiff class.

“To be able to lift that and bring it home to New Zealand, it’s going to be a pretty cool few weeks sharing it with all our fans and friends and family back home,” he said.

“We’re really proud of what we have managed to achieve as a group.”

No sentence for woman who loved and helped Calais migrant cross Channel

Beatrice Huret, 44, was found guilty at trial of helping Mokhtar – whom she met while volunteering at the since-demolished “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais – slip out of France under cover of night in a boat she had bought for 1,000 euros.

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Although prosecutors requested a one-year suspended sentence for illegally assisting migrants and putting them in danger, the court in the town of Boulogne-sur-Mer, near Calais, ruled she should not face jail or a fine.

“We are both very relieved,” said a teary Huret, who phoned her lover immediately with the news.

Arriving at the courthouse earlier, she said she took “full responsibility” for her actions.

“I am prepared to give up my life for him,” the widowed mother of a 19-year-old son said.

Prosecutor Camille Gourlin argued that Huret and a French immigration activist also on trial had put the lives of Mokhtar and two other Iranian men in danger by helping them take a boat across the Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

They were rescued by the British coastguard as their boat began to take in water.

“Solidarity is laudable but not at any price and not in any conditions,” the prosecutor said.

“In 2016, more than 5,000 migrants died in the Mediterranean in boats… We don’t want to be collecting corpses from the beaches of Pas-de-Calais,” she said, referring to the northern region.

Activist Laurent C, who was also found guilty but spared punishment, said he would continue to help migrants living rough on the streets of the northern French port.

‘Love at first sight’

A total of four people were tried for their role in helping migrants fleeing war, persecution or poverty in the Middle East or Africa reach Britain.

An Iranian migrant found in possession of 16,000 pounds ($20,370, 18,200 euros) in cash from alleged smuggling operations was sentenced to three years imprisonment, 16 months of which were suspended.

A French mother of four who lived opposite the Jungle camp received a six-month suspended sentence for ferrying migrants around by car.

Huret’s life was transformed in February 2015 when she gave a lift to a young Sudanese migrant travelling to the makeshift Calais Jungle camp, where thousands of people hoping to stow away on trucks bound for Britain were living in tents and shacks.

“It was a shock to see all these people wading around in the mud,” said Huret, whose husband – a border police officer – died of cancer in 2010.

She began volunteering at the camp and a year later met 37-year-old Mokhtar, who was among a group of Iranians who sewed their mouths shut in protest over the demolition of part of the camp in March 2016.

“It was love at first sight,” Huret told AFP in an interview this month.

After a failed bid by Mokhtar to hide in the back of a lorry, she helped him acquire a small boat and towed it to a beach from where he and two other Iranians crossed to England on June 11, 2016.

RELATEDCalais Mon Amour

Mokhtar, who is now living in the northern English city of Sheffield, has since received asylum. Huret visits him frequently.

She has written a book about their romance, “Calais Mon Amour”, for which several film-makers are vying to acquire the rights.

Since demolishing the Jungle camp in October French authorities have taken a stern line on assistance to migrants, accusing activists who provide assistance to homeless foreigners of creating a “pull” effect.

Huret is one of several people to appear in court in recent months charged with illegally assisting migrants from Africa and the Middle East who cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats or stow away in trucks travelling overland.

A 37-year-old olive farmer in southern France was recently fined 3,000 euros ($3,300) for helping African migrants cross into France from Italy and giving them

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Google slugged for abusing its dominance

Google has been fined a record 2.

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42 billion euros (A$3.5 billion) for abusing its dominance of the online search market in a case that could be just the opening salvo by European regulators in an attempt to curb the tech company’s clout.

The decision by the European Commission on Tuesday punishes Google for unfairly favouring its own online shopping recommendations in its search results.

The commission is also conducting at least two other probes into the company’s business practices that could force Google to make even more changes in the way it bundles services on mobile devices and sells digital advertising.

The crackdown is unlikely to affect Google’s products in the US or elsewhere but it could provide an opportunity to contrast how consumers fare when the company operates under constraints compared with an unfettered Google.

The fine immediately triggered debate about whether European regulators were taking prudent steps to preserve competition or overstepping their bounds to save companies being shunned by consumers who have overwhelmingly embraced an alternative.

Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s top antitrust regulator, said her agency’s nearly seven-year investigation left no doubt something had to be done to rein in Google.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation,” Vestager told reporters on Tuesday.

The fine was the highest ever imposed in Europe for anti-competitive behaviour, exceeding a 1.06 billion euros penalty on Silicon Valley chip maker Intel in 2009.

The penalty itself is unlikely to leave a dent in Google’s finances.

Parent company Alphabet Inc. has more than $US92 billion in cash, including nearly $US56 billion in accounts outside of the US.

Google’s misbehaviour in Europe boiled down to its practice of highlighting its own online shopping service above those of its rivals. Merchants pay Google for the right to show summaries of their products in small boxes displayed near the top of search results when someone seems to be interested in a purchase.

Meanwhile, Google lists search results of its biggest rivals in online shopping on page 4 – and smaller rivals even lower, based on the calculations of European regulators. That’s a huge advantage for Google when 90 per cent of user clicks are on the first page.

Google says consumers like its shopping thumbnails because they are concise and convenient.

The commission’s decision “underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections,” Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, wrote in a blog post.

How cyber attacks have grown in scale over the past 10 years

Tuesday’s wave of cyber attacks, which hit a clutch of multinationals, came just six weeks after what the EU’s law enforcement agency described as an “unprecedented” attack by WannaCry Ransomware.

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Cyberwar

The Baltic nation of Estonia was the first state hit by a massive cyberattack in 2007, which paralysed key corporate and government web services for days.

Estonia blamed Moscow, with which is was mired in a diplomatic conflict, but Moscow denied the charge.

A year later, Georgia suffered similar attacks, also during a conflict with Russia.

In July 2009, the White House, Pentagon and State Department websites were targeted in a coordinated cyberattack which also struck sites in South Korea.

In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of a major cyber attack, linked to its North Korea satire “The Interview”.

Washington blamed Pyongyang for the hacking, a claim it denied — though it had strongly condemned the film, which features a fictional CIA plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong-Un.

In May Qatar said its official agency QNA had been the victim of an unprecedented cyber attack, with the publication of comments falsely attributed to its Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The reported comments provoked a serious diplomatic crisis with three of its Gulf neighbours and Egypt.

Qatar has accused neighbouring countries of being behind the attack. The FBI is helping in the probe.

Cyberterrorism and cybercriminality 

In January 2015, a group declaring support for Islamic State jihadists hacked into the social media accounts of US Central Command (CENTCOM), an embarrassing setback for Washington in its war against IS in Syria and Iraq.

Two months later, a group calling itself the “Islamic State Hacking Division” published what they said were the names and addresses of 100 military personnel and urged supporters to kill them.

Major companies and media houses have also been targeted, including Yahoo!, which was targeted by hackers seeking personal data on millions of users in both 2013 and 2014.

Hacktivism

The loose-knit piracy collective Anonymous, arguably the most well-known hacking group, has targeted a number of organisations under its mantle of fighting injustices, including the Pentagon, the Church of Scientology, the IS group and Mastercard.

Anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, founded 10 years ago by Australian Julian Assange, specialises in the release of classified materials.

In 2010, it published 251,000 classified cables from US embassies around the world and thousands of military documents on Afghanistan.

Last year it published files and communications from the Democratic Party, damaging presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. US intelligence officials said the release was part of a Russian plot to aid the eventual election victor Donald Trump.

A similar election attack targeted the campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron barely 24 hours before the final round of voting in May, when thousands of documents from his En Marche! (On the Move!) movement were dumped online.

Ransomware – the Wannacry precedent

In May 2017 a huge range of organisations and companies around the world were affected by an cyber attack on an unprecedented scale.

The attacks spread rapidly around the globe using a security flaw in Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system, an older version that is no longer given mainstream tech support by the US giant.

The attacks were launched via WannaCry, a type of malware called ransomware that encrypts files on an infected computer and demands money via virtual currency bitcoin to unlock them.

It affected 300,000 computers in 150 countries, and among its victims were Britain’s National Health Service, a factory belonging to French carmaker Renault and Spanish phone operator Telefonica.