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1 Obesity quadruples in developing world (BBC) The number of overweight and obese adults in the developing world has almost quadrupled to around one billion since 1980, says a report from a UK think tank. The Overseas Development Institute said one in three people worldwide was now overweight and urged governments to do more to influence diets. In the UK, 64% of adults are classed as being overweight or obese. The report predicts a “huge increase” in heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
Globally, the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese – classed as having a body mass index greater than 25 – grew from 23% to 34% between 1980 and 2008. The majority of this increase was seen in the developing world, particularly in countries where incomes were rising, such as Egypt and Mexico. The ODI’s Future Diets report says this is due to changing diets and a shift from eating cereals and grains to the consumption of more fats, sugar, oils and animal produce.
A total of 904 million people in developing countries are now classed as overweight or above, with a BMI of more than 25, up from 250 million in 1980. This compares to 557 million in high-income countries. Over the same period, the global population nearly doubled. At the same time, however, under-nourishment is still recognised to be a problem for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, particularly children.
The regions of North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America saw large increases in overweight and obesity rates to a level on a par with Europe, around 58%. While North America still has the highest percentage of overweight adults at 70%, regions such as Australasia and southern Latin America are now not far behind with 63%. The greatest growth in overweight people occurred in south east Asia, where the percentage tripled from a lower starting point of 7% to 22%.
2 AgustaWestland may cut 3,300 jobs (Simon Goodley in The Guardian) As many as 3,300 jobs at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil base could be at risk after the British-Italian helicopter company said that a bribery scandal may force it to cut staff. The move follows the news this week that India had terminated a 466m pound helicopter order following claims that the firm paid kickbacks to its officials.
AgustaWestland says it “directly employs 3,280 people while supporting a further 10,000 jobs in the supply chain including 650 small and medium-sized enterprises” – with the company warning that the latter group could also be affected by reductions in orders for parts and materials.
A statement issued on Thursday evening by its Italian parent, Finmeccanica, said: “AgustaWestland is ready to take the necessary actions (in response to India’s termination) included in a mitigation plan already prepared. This plan includes a reduction to the workforce to readdress the company business model and the reallocation of existing working capital that will be reflected also on the supply chain.” The saga, which has been brewing for 11 months, is now threatening the UK’s ambitions to become a centre for high-value manufacturing.
3 ‘Aid helps more than advice’ (Drake Bennett in San Francisco Chronicle) The tradition of seeking to improve the lives of the poor by teaching them virtuous habits – thrift, sobriety, piety, self-control – extends back to Victorian social reformers. Today, the question of whether poverty is caused primarily by bad decision making or societal conditions is one of the main points of contention between American conservatives and liberals.
But if interesting new research is correct, the conditions and the decisions are indistinguishable. In other words, poor people really do tend to make worse financial decisions than rich people, but it’s not for lack of good McAdvice. It’s because they’re poor.
The research, some of which was published in the journal Science in the fall, was led by Harvard economist (and MacArthur grant winner) Sendhil Mullainathan and Princeton cognitive scientist Eldar Shafir. The two detail the work in their book, “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much,” published in September.
Financial stresses of poverty is seen to weaken people’s decision-making ability. As journalist Matthew Yglesias has pointed out, this may help explain the research finding that simply giving money to poor people is a particularly effective form of aid, particularly compared with the far more popular practice of giving the poor the things donors think they need – with noticeably positive effects years later. By providing a financial buffer and alleviating stress that may lead to poor decision making, a cash infusion helps people make better financial decisions.
In contrast, giving the poor advice as to how to make better decisions, even if such advice is more germane to their lives than how much to tip a domestic, doesn’t do anything to alleviate that pressure. It’s a cruel twist that, if Shafir and Mullainathan are right, the poor simply can’t afford to think as clearly as the rich.