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Report Shows Sugar Industry’s Deceit

A damning report released by the American Medical Association on Sunday, September 11 reveals how the sugar industry played a large role in covering up sugar’s negative health impacts. Penned by Cristin E. Kearns, the report details how the Sugar Research Foundation (SRG) helped isolate fat as the primary cause of heart disease.

During the 1950s, when coronary heart disease was growing increasingly common, SRF helped torpedo studies that showed sugar’s hand in the burgeoning health crisis. As Kearn remarks:

The industry sought to influence the scientific debate over the dietary causes of CHD in the 1950s and 1960s, a debate still reverberating in 2016. The industry would subsequently spend $600,000 ($5.3 million in 2016 dollars) to teach ‘people who had never had a course in biochemistry…that sugar is what keeps every human being alive and with energy to face our daily problems.

Indeed, looking back to the 60s and 70s, ads touted sugar’s health benefits as an energy-inducer. While that erroneous claim may no longer grace billboards, the long-lasting effects of the sugar industry’s obfuscation of the dietary risks posed by its cash crop are immense in magnitude. In the United States – second only to Mexico as the most obese nation on earth – added sugar pervades our foods, contributing to a number of pressing heath issues associated with obesity.

The sugar industry’s meddling didn’t end there. Industry interests also worked with the National Institute of Health to construct a dental health program for kids that precluded limiting sugar from daily diets. Sugar – of course – is the leading cause of cavities and tooth decay.

The insidious influence of commercial interests hostile to public health also spanned the Atlantic Ocean. An early whistleblower who correctly identified the risks posed by sugar, John Yudkin was a British professor who composed a prescient book that made headlines at the time but that ultimately led to his marginalization within the field. “If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar,” Yudkin wrote, “were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would promptly be banned.”

Working with government nutritionists, the sugar industry marginalized Yudkin’s findings and – just as in the United States – accomplished this largely by underscoring fat’s role in heart-related ailments.

The sugar industry’s decades-long lobbying efforts are a haunting example of how a special interest can shape public perception. Both nonprofit organizations focused on the social good and social enterprises genuinely concerned with human progress need to take these examples to heart, turning away from duplicity and innovating healthy programs, products, and services that are pro-growth and pro-people and that do not require deceit in order to generate profit.

Merkel Suffers Electoral Defeat to Anti-Immigrant Nationalists

This past Sunday saw a stunning defeat of Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at the hands of an ascendent radical right-wing party known as the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD).

The local defeat took place in Merkel’s own parliamentary constituency in the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. While the results do not threaten CDU’s hold on power nationally, they provide a sobering look at voter sentiment just a year out from national elections.

Merkel’s governing party not only fell behind AfD in this past weekend’s elections, but was also defeated by the center-left Social Democrats, leaving CDU in third place in what has historically been a safe district for the party.

Analysts point to the Germany government’s policy on refugees as the primary catalyst for the rise of populist, anti-immigrant sentiment among the nation’s population. Frauke Petry – leader for the AfD – credits Merkel’s open border policy for her own party’s success:

The CDU is falling apart, but not only [in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania]. We see that in many regions of Germany where the CDU bases, the party bases, don’t agree with Merkel’s policy anymore. We want that the German government closes German borders to illegal migration… We need controlled borders. We need a change of legislation on a German level, but also an EU level, to avoid illegal migration.

CDU candidate Lorenz Caffier agreed, stating that “there was only one subject during the campaign, and that subject was the refugee policy. The refugee question was decisive.”

In 2015, Merkel’s government accepted more than 1 million refugees – mainly Syrians fleeing the intractable conflict in their home country – making it the single most open nation in Europe. Over the past year, several attacks linked to Islamists have heightened fears of immigration and provided fuel for nationalists to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.

Far from being unique, Germany is a piece of a larger puzzle. Far-right nationalist parties are succeeding across Europe. In France, the National Front has made great strides in recent years, taking advantage of voters’ insecurities stemming from immigration and terror attacks.

Earlier this year, Petry sparked outrage when she suggested that the border patrol shoot immigrants attempting to cross illegally into Germany. This language is a big deal. Since the horrors of WWII, Germany has celebrated a culturally liberal spirit that has shamed many other nations with an emphasis on multiculturalism and acceptance.

These historical tendencies – however – are now under threat from rising populist parties that offer few solutions to their voters’ economic and cultural fears other than promises of international isolation and the marginalization of disadvantaged communities. While the issues that have caused the largest displacement of people in a century are complex and variegated, further disenfranchising desperate populations will only abet the very terrorists that have contributed to refugees’ plight.

Not only is a more humane treatment necessary to promote the general social good, but it’s integral to any meaningful security policy designed to keep Western nations safe.

Italy: Volunteers Show En Masse to Help Earthquake Victims

(A seismic graphic showing the distribution of aftershocks from this month’s horrendous earthquake in Central Italy.)

On August 24, a devastating 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy, claiming the lives of hundreds of area residents while ravaging the mountain town of Amatrice, where 224 of the 291 victims lived. The incident has displaced more than 1,000 people.

The scenes from the aftermath are heartbreaking – a visceral reminder of horrific outcomes that natural disasters can unleash. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi discussed the earthquake in an address to the nation:

Right now we feel terrible pain. Italy is a family that has been hit and struck, but we are not going to be stopped.

Unfortunately, the healing process may hit some speed bumps. Authorities and analysts are concerned that the mafia may try and fit its way into the rebuilding process. Organized crime still plays a large role in Italian society, intertwined with the international drug trade and racketeering and responsible for countless murders.


As Franco Roberti – head of the country’s dedicated anti-mafia agency – relayed to reporters concerning the potential of meddling by various mafia syndicates:

There are risks, it is useless to hide it The risk of infiltration is always high. Post-earthquake reconstruction is a tasty morsel for criminal organizations and business interests.

While authorities work to ensure that the healing process precludes interference from criminals, there have been some glimmers of hope and signs of a deeply entrenched commitment to the social good. More than half of the responders who helped Amatrice and the surrounding areas in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake were volunteers – specialists who commit large amounts of time to honing skills integral for emergency situations.

Among the volunteers, a group of 20 migrants from Africa pitched in, helping clear rubble in the search for survivors.

Witnessing such selflessness and a drive to support the social good without profit is both commendable and paramount for the best possible functioning of society. Supporting individuals such as those that stepped up in Italy – as well as the organizations that help coordinate their efforts – is imperative for private businesses, government bodies, and individuals alike.

Food Justice: Are Nanofarms the Future?

(Nanofarms in action. Courtesy of Replantable.)

Entrepreneurs and food justice activists have been cultivating new and innovative ways to get healthy, nourishing vegetables into the hands of urban dwellers and underserved communities. Vertical Farming – for example – could revolutionize the way the basic needs nonprofits acquire stocks to feed those in need through inventive kiosks that grow food in-store (or, potentially, right in the food pantry of a soup kitchen).

A similiar product is currently in the works through a Kickstarter campaign that has raised nearly half of its $50,000 goal.

Two forward-thinking designers in Atlanta founded Replantable, a startup that looks to produce and begin marketing nanofarms that can grow food right in your own home. Through LED lights, the small boxes provide nourishment to greens and utilize unique fabric pads to retain moisture. Better yet, nanofarms provide a way for people to grow healthy foods – including arugula, bok choy, and beets – without the use of pesticides or other chemicals.

The devices only require users to apply water and to trigger a timer. The hands-free operation involves a notification light that helpfully informs the user that plants are ready for harvest.

Ruwan Subasinghe, one of the designers behind the project, has more details:


The nanofarm lets people harvest minutes before eating, and only pick what they’re about to eat. The rest stays alive and growing rather than decomposing and shrinking. Our customers have shown us that they’re able to harvest every last bit of produce from the nanofarm

The nanofarm will sell for about $350, which may seem steep to many consumers. The devices, however, can produce greens for up to five years, and they work during all seasons. Nonprofits and basic needs providers could assist poor communities in procuring nanofarms, delivering constantly renewing, healthy foods to the neighborhoods that need it most.

NFL Hires Popular, History-Making Female Police Chief

(Cathy Lanier poses with Washington D.C. police officers. Photo: Ted Eytan)

A popular police chief is switching jobs this week.

Cathy Lanier – the first ever female police chief of Washington, D.C. – is departing from her role as a public servant and picking up the mantle of head of security for the NFL. She was in charge of D.C. police for 10 years, an incredibly long period of time for a position that – in many cities – often undergoes quick turnover rates.

Her popularity stemmed from a number of factors. The city progressively got safer under her tutelage. Perhaps even more importantly, she gained the trust of D.C. residents through a commitment to community policing.

This style of law and order embeds police officers within communities, ensuring that they become acquainted with the local population while developing and maintaining relationships with community figures. This proactive approach to policing cultivates trust, and has been considered an important strategy for bridging wide gaps between cities and police departments, especially where fissures concerning race, police brutality, and crime have led to historical highs of public distrust.

The NFL’s choice to hire a history-making woman who embodies progressive sensibilities concerning security does seem like a positive step for the scandal-plagued institution.

To reporters, Lanier contextualized her career change:

What’s more important than being responsible for public safety and security than the nation’s capital? Where do you go from here right? When I thought about the NFL, it’s America’s favorite sport and what’s more important than making sure America’s favorite sport is safe?

Keeping sports fans safe certainly contributes to the social good. But it will take the NFL more than the Lanier appointment to fully rehabilitate its image tarnished by obfuscating the medical risks of football, turning a blind eye to domestic violence, and economically damaging local communities through privileged tax designations.

How You Can Help Louisiana Flood Victims

(The National Guard prepares for flooding in Louisiana)

Disastrous floods have struck Louisiana yet again. The toll has been staggering. This week, more than 66,000 Louisianans have filed for FEMA assistance. As many as 40,000 homes have been damaged by flood waters, and at least 30,000 people have been rescued from either vehicles or homes by authorities due to the Louisiana flood.


The total cost of the Red Cross’ operations in the region is expected to reach $30 million in order to cope with the crisis, which has claimed 11 lives so far.

In addition to having to rebuild after losing so much, residents in Louisiana face a number of other issues that stem from this natural disaster, the likes of which are becoming all-too-common as climate change continues to ravage coastal regions. Lingering health risks – such as mold exposure – will haunt residents for months to come.

Celebrities and average citizens alike have pitched in to help those affected. In a high-profile move, Taylor Swift has donated $1 million for relief efforts. Lady Gaga has also contributed, having donated an undisclosed sum.

You, too, can help flood victims rebound. The following vetted organizations are organizing and/or providing on-the-ground services for Louisiana residents. Make a gift today:

Red Cross
United Way
Louisiana Strong

Gays Against Guns: LGBTQ Activists Take a Stand Against Gun Violence

A group of LGBTQ activists are taking a stand against gun violence, with hundreds participating in direct actions against gun companies and their allies around the country.

Gays Against Guns (GAG) formed following the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando this past June, in which a gunman murdered 49 people at the popular gay bar. The activist collective has chapters in 9 cities and boasts more than 300 members in New York City. The group plans to target gun manufacturers including Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co – the two largest in the United States – as well as the National Rifle Association.

The group’s Facebook page states: “Queer complacency is over. We call for a ban on assault weapons and sensible gun regulation. We will not let our 49 siblings’ death be in vain.”

The direct actions – slated to kick off Monday – are partly inspired by older activists in the group who participated in the Act Up gay rights campaign of the 1980s, which offered advocacy for people in the gay community affected by AIDS and broadcasted their plight. Act Up’s direct action approach is credited with successfully bringing AIDS into the public spotlight.

GAG seeks to not only elevate the discussion around gun violence and rail against the cynical lobbying of the NRA that persistently blocks meaningful gun laws, but to target companies and individuals with financial stakes in weapons manufacturing.

On Monday, activists staged a “die in” outside of BlackRock, an investment firm with large investments in Smith & Wesson.

Cathy Marino-Thomas – a campaigner for GAG – discussed the rationale for protesting BlackRock:

Here is a company whose CEO, Laurence Fink, prides himself on their socially conscious investment yet comes right out and tells clients that mass shootings worked to their financial advantage,” said campaigner Cathy Marino-Thomas. “They’re smart enough to acknowledge they profit from massacres but can’t find a way to unload those stocks? That’s amoral.

GAG also looks to call attention to firms that vie benefits to NRA members, including car rental companies and Visa.

The nascent organization may just be getting off the ground, but its moral vision and willingness to act are inspiring qualities. With more organizations representing a greater diversity of US citizens forming a loose coalition fighting for sensible gun laws, the tide may slowly turn in favor of sanity in a political arena dominated by Second Amendment extremists.

Undocumented Immigrants in Holding Hunger Strike

(The Berks County Residential Center located in Leesport, Pennsylvania.)

Women at a Pennsylvania residential center housing undocumented immigrants are on hunger strike to call attention to the slow mechanisms of government authorities in dealing with their cases.

The Berks County Residential Center is home to three families that have been housed at the facility for over a year. The maximum amount of time suggested by law that undocumented immigrants can be housed before transferral is 20 days – a timeframe that the Obama Administration claims is upheld by US Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As evidenced by the cases in Pennsylvania, however, this norm is obviously broken with some regularity.

The center houses dozens of women and their children – many from Central America – who claim to have fled violence in their home countries in the hopes of securing a better life.

In a letter signed by 22 women held at the Berks County Residential Center, the psychological toll on their children is thrown into sharp relief:

Our children, who range in age from 2 to 16, have been deprived of a normal life. We are already traumatized from our countries of origin. We risked our own lives and those of our children so we could arrive on safe ground. While here our children have considered committing suicide, made desperate from confinement. The teenagers say that being here, life makes no sense. One of our children said he wanted to break the window to jump out and end this nightmare.

Advocates working on behalf of the undocumented immigrants believe as many as 26 women are participating in the hunger strike, which is now entering its second week. You can read the full letter signed by the strikers here.

US authorities have received criticism in the past for brutal detention centers and questionable practices that infringe on undocumented immigrants’ human rights.

The Tap will have more as the strike in Pennsylvania continues.

AnalyticsIQ Connects Nonprofits With Big Data

There is a common saying in the nonprofit sector that philanthropic institutions lag at least ten years behind private industry counterparts when it comes to implementing new technologies.

Donor retention, for example, is often treated as an art rather than a science. When nonprofits lack the resources to assemble and analyze the hard data necessary for concrete solutions to demographic issues in their donor support base, they necessarily rely on the gut feelings of experienced professionals.

And while there are plenty of stewards out there who get results through skill and experience alone, there are tools available that not only make their lives easier, but that result in game-changing improvements to their nonprofits’ organizational capacity as well.

One firm based in Atlanta, Georgia is working to help nonprofits utilize these tools.

AnalyticsIQ offers comprehensive data analytics services, helping organizations discover important data and make better use of the donor information they already possess.

“One nonprofit client approached us with major issues concerning lapsed donors,” explains Mike Hattub, Chief Operating Officer at AnalyticsIQ. “During our initial discussions we uncovered a number of additional areas where we could also make a big impact on the group’s operations and fundraising.”

The client – a blue chip nonprofit active across the nation – was initially hesitant at delving into compiled data. They opted to move ahead, however, and AnalyticsIQ created a data model that the client used to create a specially tailored mailing that targeted 50,000 households.

The ROI on the mailing was double the client’s initial projection.

From there, AnalyticsIQ developed more models targeting specific age and ethnic groups that resulted in further successes. Eventually, AnalyticsIQ would be responsible for the majority of new donor mailings for the organization, providing invaluable demographic and consumer data that helped maximize the returns on fundraising mailings that ranged from 1-2 million individuals.

“Through our services – including Dynabase, our proprietary database – we help nonprofits achieve maximum scalability for donor mailings in order to meet their goals,” Hattub tells Key Elements Group. “We compile and analyze thousands of consumer characteristics and attributes that help development professionals craft the right language and appeal strategy for the job.”

In an era where information translates into profits and fundraising, nonprofits can’t afford to overlook the competitive benefits offered by data analytics. The world’s biggest brands and most cutting edge companies use analytics to determine consumer profiles and digital behavior in order to optimize user experience and convert interest into revenue. Nonprofits – both big and small – should follow suit.

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and content from AnalyticsIQ. Key Elements Group LLC did not receive monetary compensation for writing this article or affiliated links.)

Camp Century: Abandoned US Base in Greenland Poses Radioactive Threat

(The Greenland Ice Sheet, home to Camp Century, an abandoned US base that could leak radioactive waste)

While certain political parties and public figures (here’s looking at you, Donald Trump) may dismiss the reality of climate change as a politically expedient ploy, the overwhelming majority of scientific opinion not only confirms its existence but has also furnished a sobering look at its longterm effects. From decreased water reserves threatening vulnerable populations to rising sea levels putting coastal cities underwater, climate change poses a number of threats to the social good across the globe.

In addition to the aforementioned macro-level threats, there are also regional particularities that tie directly to climate change. Take, for example, an abandoned US military base in Greenland that has recently garnered headlines for the cataclysmic danger it may pose in the future.

The base, named Camp Century, was built into the Greenland Ice Sheet in 1959 and deserted in 1967. Ostensibly a research station, the camp was additionally used as a potential nuclear launch site, chosen for its striking distance to the Soviet Union.

Camp Century Greenland Climate Change Key Elements Group
(The entrance to Camp Century, US Military Archives)

When the camp was decommissioned, the 200 US military personnel stationed there up and left, with official opinion holding that the encroaching ice would effectively seal off residual pollutants. While this policy may have worked out until now, shrinking glaciers in Greenland may release a host of dangerous materials that could result in an environmental catastrophe.

In a statement, climate scientist William Colgan described the situation:

When we looked at the climate simulations, they suggested that rather than perpetual snowfall, it seems that as early as 2090, the site could transition from net snowfall to net melt. Once the site transitions from net snowfall to net melt, it’s only a matter of time before the wastes melt out; it becomes irreversible.

The secret nuclear program at Camp Century – called Project Iceworm – also featured a nuclear reactor that powered the base and that has most certainly resulted in radioactive waste. Other harmful materials – including biological and chemical waste – also factor into the pollutants that could escape through melting ice.

Camp Century Climate Change Greendland Key Elements Group
(Image of Camp Century, US Military Archives)

To further complicate the situation, the responsibility for cleaning up this gargantuan mess is up in the air. The base was created and funded by the United States, but was approved by Denmark, then the colonial power in possession of Greenland. Nowadays, Greenland is an autonomous country.

The case of Camp Century, while high-profile, may not be entirely unique, as Colgan explains: ”Two generations ago, people were interring waste in different areas of the world, and now climate change is modifying those sites.”

As climate change progresses without a meaningful, united response from governments, agencies, and institutions around the world, threats like the one posed by Camp Century will proliferate. And, regardless of how effectively the world turns the tide on climate change, we now live in a reality where Camp Century and other toxic relics will inevitably require herculean efforts to control.

It’s just a matter of time.

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