Phony anti-obesity organization fronting for Coca-Cola shutting down

The Global Energy Balance Network, an organization founded to help combat obesity, will be disbanding after months of criticism following a New York Times report…that revealed Coca-Cola had funded the organization.

The group wiped its website clean, leaving a post that said it was discontinuing operations “due to resource limitations.”

Following the August article, public health officials across the country argued that Coca-Cola had funded the group in an effort to play down the association between sugary soft drinks and obesity. While the group had previously claimed that Coke had given them an “unrestricted gift” and the company had “no input” on the research, the Associated Press reported last week that they had obtained emails between Coca-Cola and GEBN group leaders that showed the beverage company had both hand-picked GEBN’s group leaders and, “edited its mission statement and suggested content for the group’s website.” In response, Coke told the AP that its chief scientist, Rhona Applebaum, would be retiring as well.

The New York Times reported yesterday that in an email exchange between James O. Hill, GEBN’s president, and Applebaum, Hill had suggested a study to focus the blame for the rise in obesity on a lack of exercise, and keep it away from the rise in consumption of Coca-Cola’s soft drinks.

Credit where and when due. NY TIMES did the work that exposed Coca-Cola. They deserve measured applause.

Mail me a penny postcard when they stop fronting for the State Department in the Middle East and Asia.

Yes, anti-abortion nutballs want to stop contraception, too

A rapid increase in the number of U.S. women turning to intrauterine devices to prevent pregnancy has prompted escalating attacks on the birth control method from groups that oppose abortion.

The next battle will be at the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to consider a new religious challenge to contraceptives coverage under President Obama’s healthcare law. Although the case deals broadly with whether religiously affiliated groups should be exempt from providing birth control coverage to their employees, some parties in the case have focused specifically on IUDs…

Here’s the religious rationale:

“IUDs are a life-ending device,” said Mailee Smith, staff counsel for the Americans United for Life, which filed an amicus brief in support of the challenge before the high court. “The focus of these cases is that requiring any life-ending drug is in violation of the Religious Freedom Act.”

IUD use among U.S. women using contraceptives grew to 10.3 percent in 2012 from 2 percent in 2002, according to the Guttmacher Institute, making them the fastest growing birth-control method. Their popularity has grown as women recognized that newer versions of the device don’t carry the same safety risks as a 1970s-era IUD known as the Dalkon Shield.

Now more than 10 percent of U.S. women using contraceptives use IUDs. Other forms of birth control, such as daily pills, are on the decline…

Planned Parenthood, long a target from religious groups for providing access to abortions, has also become a significant source of the devices, with IUD use by its patients up 57 percent between 2009 and 2013.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration created an exemption for houses of worship and some related organizations that object to funding birth control for employees, but now other types of religiously affiliated groups want similar waivers.

The consequences of Obama’s wavering over separation of church and state:

In 2014, the Supreme Court accepted the position of Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores owned by religious Christians, ruling that private companies that are closely-controlled could opt out of contraception coverage based on the owners’ beliefs.

Hobby Lobby, among other things, objected to birth control that could prevent “an embryo from implanting in the womb,” including two types of IUDs…

The current high court case consolidates seven lawsuits filed by nonprofit groups with religious affiliations, such as colleges and retirement homes run by nuns. The ruling could be applied to more than 100 similar lawsuits, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of women, according to lawyers on both sides of the issue. Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the plaintiffs, has for example more than 2,000 employees.

We’re talking about unintended consequences. Obama included a perfectly reasonable opt-out for True Believers. But, the dog-in-the-manger politics of folks like Hobby Lobby extends to keeping employees from having any rights at all. Unless we have an executive branch that fights for separation of church and state, a Supreme Court steered by reactionaries can behave just as consistently backwards as Congress.

Having only two classes of politicians – conservatives and cowards – doesn’t help along progress for ordinary working families.

The near-to-medium-term future of gene editing Is being decided now

…Hundreds of scientists are gathered in Washington, D.C. for the international summit on genome editing. The three-day conference will discuss the ethical and appropriate use of all genome-editing technologies, but it will likely pay close attention to the newest and arguably easiest method, CRISPR-Cas9, known colloquially as just CRISPR.

The technology has been at the center of scientists’ minds worldwide since April, when Chinese researchers reported that they used the tool to edit nonviable human embryos, or ones that have no chance of developing into human beings. The summit, which started early this morning, is sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as the Royal Academy, and will include researchers from the United States, Great Britain, and China as well as representatives from at least 20 countries worldwide.

The group plans to discuss many direct applications of the CRISPR technique, including the ability to perform genome editing both on human embryos to treat a specific disease as well as to implement gene drive, which would introduce new genes into a few organisms that would then pass that change on to future generations.

Why is this conference so important?

Currently, the rules regarding the use of genome editing tools are hard to follow and as Nature reported back in October, vary by country…This conference is also the first of its kind and could therefore guide how future research using CRISPR and other gene editing tools will unfold…

Many researchers have already publically stated where they stand on the use of gene-editing techniques. But this summit could likely provide a regulatory approach to help researchers around the world—as a team—navigate how they will use the CRISPR technique over the next several years and decades in an effort to regulate, but not limit, scientists abilities to use this technique for the greatest medical need.

On paper, given the naturally conservative pace of science, nothing drastic should result in the near-term. By drastic, of course, I mean political interference of the George W. Bush-class. Every self-important-preacher and populist pundit will stick their oar into the discussion as soon as they realize [1] the import of easy human genome editing and [2] the political dynamic they can raise to benefit their own profit and power.

The first Japanese noodle shop to get a Michelin star

A tiny Tokyo noodle shop has joined the ranks of the world’s top restaurants after it scooped up a star from the respected Michelin Guide.

The food bible gave a nod to nine-seat Tsuta – a first for a ramen eatery – as Tokyo also kept its title as the world’s culinary capital with the most Michelin-starred restaurants…

Ramen is one of the most common fast foods in Japan and small shops serving the soup-and-noodle concoction can be found on almost every corner.

Tsuta – which sells bowls from about £4.50 to £6.50 apiece at its shop in the north Tokyo district of Sugamo – features gourmet offerings such as rosemary-flavoured barbecued pork and soya sauce ramen with a hint of porcini mushroom…

While sophisticated, high-end Japanese restaurants, including sushi and tempura venues, are no strangers to Michelin stars, it is rare for casual cafes to receive the award.

Time to revisit Tampopo.