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Seattle is making a tax that some are bitter about

(BUSINESS TAX) Seattle has tax in the works that is sure to unsettle some.

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Seattle’s new tax

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray released a new statement explaining an in-the-works proposal to levy a local tax on sugary drinks.

While the distributors of sodas, energy drinks, added-sugar juices, and sweetened teas would be taxed .02 cents per ounce, coffee shops (*cough* Starbucks *cough*) seem to be conveniently exempt in this java mecca.

Everyone loves a loophole

The incoming ordinance will define sugary drinks as “liquids with a specified amount of caloric sweetener, syrups and powders,” and the tax will apply to all distributors, big and small, within Seattle. It will rightly exempt things like 100 percent fruit juice, infant formula, and medicine.

But, with uncanny specificity, the proposal will also give a free pass to “in-store prepared coffee beverages.”

Probably because the 61 grams of sugar in your grande mocha Starbucks Frappuccino isn’t added, it’s an innate part of the Starbucks experience, right?

Sugar money

Murray plans to send the anticipated $16 million in revenue resulting from the tax toward “major new investments in education to eliminate the opportunity gap between white students and African American/Black students and other historically underrepresented students of color,” based on programs recommended by the Education Summit Advisory Group.

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Some examples of potential programs to fund with sugar money include the Parent-Child Program, and the Fresh Bucks program, which aims to expand access to healthy food.

The true cost of sugary drinks

The statement cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who points to a similar tax in Berkeley, California, which managed to cut down on the consumption of sugary drinks by about 20 percent.

The CDC has said that soda taxes are “the single most effective remedy to reverse the obesity epidemic.”

In 2015, the World Health Organization also urged countries to combat obesity and other health problems with sugary drink taxes. “Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, head of WHO’s department for preventing noncommunicable diseases. “If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives.”

Battle royale

Even though this tax is still just a gleam in Murray’s eye, the soda industry is ready to fight for their right to sell unhealthy stuff. “Seattle taxpayers and small businesses are certainly in favor of making sure all Seattle students have equal opportunities to succeed in school,” said the Washington Beverage Association in a statement.

“But there has to be a better way to do this than with a highly regressive tax that makes prices skyrocket on working families and hurts Seattle small businesses.”

Not the first, nor the last

Despite pushback, Seattle is not alone in considering such a tax. In addition to Berkeley, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland, and Boulder, Colorado already have similar taxes in place.

Healthy living is slowly being prioritized, despite corporate lobbying.Click To Tweet

And we know this story – the tobacco industry continues to be curbed by taxes and advertising restrictions, to great effect. Sugar taxes will likely be everywhere eventually, and we’ll marvel at how great low-sugar can feel.

#SeattlesSugarySkirmish

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

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  1. Pingback: Amidst layoffs, Pepsi throws literally everyone else under the bus #SodaTax - The American Genius

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Tech News

Not just for gaming: How virtual reality can save PTSD patients

(TECH NEWS) Thanks to its ability to simulate situations safely, virtual reality technologies are proving effective in therapy for PTSD patients.

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Woman wearing a VR headset in warm sunny lighting, PTSD patients treatment

Over the last year, a great many people have developed a new and sometimes dangerous relationship with a new emotional state, anxiety. I know that personally I’d never had a panic attack in my life until the middle of the pandemic. For many these emotions have taken the form of actual disorders. Actual mental influences which affect everyday life on a large scale. One of the most common forms of which is PTSD.

This disorder has many different aspects and can affect people in a number of different and debilitating ways. Finding treatments for PTSD patients and other anxiety disorders – especially treatments that don’t involve drugging people into oblivion has been difficult.

A lot of these disorders require exposure therapy. Putting people back into similar situations which caused the original trauma so that their brains can adjust to the situation and not get stuck in pain or panic loops. But how do you do that for things like battlefield trauma. You can’t just create situations with gunfire and dead bodies! Or can you?

This is where VR starts coming in. Thanks to the falling cost of VR headsets, noted by The Economist, psychologists are more capable of creating these real world situations that can actually help people adjust to their individual trauma.

One therapist went so far as to compare it to easy access opioids for therapy. This tool is so powerful that of the 20 veterans that they started with, 16 of them no longer qualify for the categories of PTSD. That’s a 75% success rate with an over-the-counter medicine. I can think of antihistamines and painkillers that aren’t that good.

I’ve grown up around PTSD patients. The majority of my family have been in the military. I was even looking at a career before I was denied service. I have enough friends that deal with PTSD issues that I have a list of things I remember not to invite certain people to so as not to trigger it. Any and every tool available that could help people adapt to their trauma is worthwhile.

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Tired of email spam? This silly, petty solution might provide vindication

(TECH NEWS) If you struggle to keep your inbox clean thanks to a multitude of emails, the widget “You’ve Got Spam” could provide some petty catharsis.

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Email icon with 20 possible spam emails on phone screen.

We’re all spending a lot of time behind our computers and inside of our inboxes these days, so it makes sense that some people—not naming names—might be sick of seeing several unsolicited emails a day from marketers and other unsavory businesses.

While we can’t recommend a mature, adult solution that hasn’t already been beaten to death (looking at you, “inbox zero” crowd), we can recommend a childish one: Signing solicitors up for spam.

If you do decide to go the petty route, “You’ve Got Spam”—a free email widget from MSCHF—has you covered. Upon installing the widget, you can configure it to respond automatically to incoming cold-marketing emails with tons of subscriptions to spam sources, thus resulting in overwhelming the sender with a crowded inbox and cultivating a potentially misplaced sense of catharsis for yourself.

The widget itself is fairly simple: You only need to install it to Gmail from the MSCHF website. The rest is pretty self-explanatory. When you receive an email from a person from whom you can safely assume you’ll never be receiving favors ever again, you can open it and click the “You’ve Got Spam” icon to sign the sender up for spam lists galore.

See? Petty, but effective.

The developer page does fail to make the distinction between the promised “100” subscriptions and the “hundreds of spam subscriptions” discussed on Product Hunt. But one can assume that anyone who dares trespass on the sacred grounds of your squeaky-clean inbox will rue the day they did so regardless of the exact number of cat litter magazine subscriptions they receive.

Of course, actually using something like “You’ve Got Spam” is, realistically, a poor choice. It takes exactly as much effort to type, “We’ll pass – thanks!” as a response to anyone cold-emailing you, and you’re substantially less likely to piss off the actual human being on the other side by doing so. Services like this are heavy on the comedic shock value, but the empathy side tends to lack a discernible presence.

That said, if you absolutely must wreck someone’s day—and inbox—MSCHF’s “You’ve Got Spam” is a pretty ingenious way to do it.

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Clubhouse finally made it to Android, but has its time passed?

(TECH NEWS) Social media felt the impact of Clubhouse, but the internet moves fast, and even though it is finally on Android, it’s time may be waning.

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Woman holding book and a phone, with headphones, participating in Clubhouse.

Clubhouse finally got an Android release, and while many people clamored for such a thing months ago, others argue that it’s too little, too late.

If you aren’t familiar with Clubhouse, it’s an audio-only “social platform” that encourages discussions through live chat rooms. Users can drop into various rooms and listen to people talk, request the option to chime in, and follow a variety of rooms (or “topics”) to stay engaged over time. Users can even create their own rooms that feature them as speakers.

Clubhouse also has a certain allure to it in that the app requires new users to put their names on a waitlist that creates an “invite-only” culture of exclusivity.

But while iPhone users have had access to Clubhouse since its inception, Android users have been not-so-patiently waiting for their own release—and, now that Clubhouse for Android is available, it may have outstayed its welcome.

Part of the problem is the launch itself. The Android Clubhouse app launched with limited functionality; Android users weren’t able to follow the topics they like, change their account information, and so on. This made the release feel underwhelming, further highlighting Clubhouse’s affinity for Apple users.

A more complicated problem is the prevalence of audio options in other social media services. Slack, for example, recently released their audio-only rooms, and services such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have placed a spotlight on voice-only mediums of expression.

Initially, Clubhouse was the only app to incorporate audio as a strong central focus, but the ubiquitous fascination with voice-posting has expanded to comprise most major communication platforms. As such, Clubhouse’s sought-after exclusivity is no more—something that was also arguably damaged by expanding to Android.

It should be noted that interest in the app itself is decreasing, and not just on Android. Social Media Today reported that, in March of 2021, Clubhouse downloads were down 72 percent from February’s 9.6 million downloads. The publication also pointed out that difficulty finding rooms was a substantial issue that is unlikely to do anything but worsen with a surge of Android users, necessitating some back-end fixes from the owners.

As it sits, Clubhouse is still very much in use, and Android users are poised to reignite interest as iOS users stagnate. Whether or not that interest will persevere in the current social media ecosystem remains to be seen.

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