New Study Suggests That Smartphone Overuse is Similar to Other Types of Substance Abuse

It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise when technology corporations design smartphones to be as addictive as possible.

Smartphones are an integral part of most people’s lives, allowing us to stay connected and in-the-know at all times. The downside of that convenience is that many of us are also addicted to the constant pings, chimes, vibrations and other alerts from our devices, unable to ignore new emails, texts and images. In a new study published in NeuroRegulation, San Francisco State University Professor of Health Education Erik Peper and Associate Professor of Health Education Richard Harvey argue that overuse of smart phones is just like any other type of substance abuse.

“The behavioral addiction of smartphone use begins forming neurological connections in the brain in ways similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief — gradually,” Peper explained.

On top of that, addiction to social media technology may actually have a negative effect on social connection. In a survey of 135 San Francisco State students, Peper and Harvey found that students who used their phones the most reported higher levels of feeling isolated, lonely, depressed and anxious. They believe the loneliness is partly a consequence of replacing face-to-face interaction with a form of communication where body language and other signals cannot be interpreted. They also found that those same students almost constantly multitasked while studying, watching other media, eating or attending class. This constant activity allows little time for bodies and minds to relax and regenerate, says Peper, and also results in “semi-tasking,” where people do two or more tasks at the same time — but half as well as they would have if focused on one task at a time.

Peper and Harvey note that digital addiction is not our fault but a result of the tech industry’s desire to increase corporate profits. “More eyeballs, more clicks, more money,” said Peper. Push notifications, vibrations and other alerts on our phones and computers make us feel compelled to look at them by triggering the same neural pathways in our brains that once alerted us to imminent danger, such as an attack by a tiger or other large predator. “But now we are hijacked by those same mechanisms that once protected us and allowed us to survive — for the most trivial pieces of information,” he said.

But just as we can train ourselves to eat less sugar, for example, we can take charge and train ourselves to be less addicted to our phones and computers. The first step is recognizing that tech companies are manipulating our innate biological responses to danger. Peper suggests turning off push notifications, only responding to email and social media at specific times and scheduling periods with no interruptions to focus on important tasks.

Study Shows a Bigger Pharmaceutical Industry is Linked to Worse Health Outcomes

The ridiculously extreme profits of pharmaceutical corporations has allowed them to lobby legislatures and enact laws that further boost their profits — while being detrimental to the public interest. Much of this is due to drug patent monopolies, which are regularly equivalent to harmful, regressive tariffs of hundreds or thousands of percent.

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While Americans debate the rising cost of health care, a new study of 30 countries over 27 years found that medical expansion has improved overall health — with one major exception.

Researchers found that increased spending on health care and increases in specialized care were both associated with longer life expectancy and less mortality in the countries studied.

But pharmaceutical industry expansion was linked to negative health effects.

“This study isn’t the first to suggest prescription drugs can pose a health risk. But it is the first to find that the growth of the pharmaceutical industry itself may be associated with worse rather than better health,” said Hui Zheng, lead author of the study and associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.

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Two measures of expansion in the pharmaceutical industry — increased sales and more money spent on research and development — were linked to lower life expectancy among women aged 65 and older, and with increased mortality rates. The pharmaceutical measures were not associated with the other health outcomes studied.

The researchers ran tests to confirm that it wasn’t the other way around — that lower life expectancy and increased mortality were causing an expansion of the pharmaceutical industry. But that wasn’t the case.

That wasn’t the only negative finding about the growing drug industry.

“We found that as the pharmaceutical industry expands, there is a decrease in the beneficial impact of medical specialization on population health,” Zheng said.

This study can’t say why expansion in the pharmaceutical industry is leading to negative population health effects, Zheng said.

“It could be due to toxic side effects of drugs, doctors’ prescribing practices, patients’ misuse of prescription drugs, reasons related to pharmaceutical industry’s marketing strategies or some combination of these factors,” he said.

Solar Energy Now Creates More Jobs Than Any Other American Industry

The Trump regime has placed a tariff on solar panels because the regime serves the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Making solar panels less competitive is unjustified assistance to the harmful fossil fuels companies that should be replaced by clean energy such as solar power.

Solar energy isn’t just a tool to reduce emissions and help slow climate change – it’s a job creator.

According to the most recent National Solar Jobs Census published by The Solar Foundation, the industry creates more jobs than any other sector in the US.

According to the census, solar energy adds jobs 17 times faster than the overall economy in the United States.

In 2010, there were only 93,000 jobs in solar. The sector has seen a steep rise and six years later 260,077 people were employed in the field.

This means that in 2016 one in every 50 new jobs was in the solar industry, and analysts expect the trend to continue.

Although the figures presented in the census were originally criticised for underestimating the number of workers operating in the solar industry, The Hill now reports that “the Census is widely recognised as the most authoritative and comprehensive analysis of the US solar workforce.”

The problems from the incredibly regressive tariff imposed by the Trump regime are already being seen. The Trump government is such a cruel joke at this point — if it really cared about providing good jobs, it would (among other measures) create a public works program for solar energy.

President Donald Trump’s decision to impose a 30 percent tariff on all solar technology imports has claimed its first victims in the fast-growing solar energy job market.

The California-based company SunPower announced Friday that as a result of the tariffs, it will hold off on a $20 million plan to expand its operations in the U.S., including hiring hundreds of Americans.

“It’s not hypothetical,” CEO Tom Werner told Reuters. “These were positions that we were recruiting for that we are going to stop.”

Two foreign-owned solar companies, Suniva and SolarWorld, lobbied for the tariffs, arguing that cheap imports from China have caused their panel prices to fall since 2016. But after it was announced earlier this week, Trump’s decision caused concern in the U.S. solar energy industry.

“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industry Association.

Republican Tax Scam Aiding Investors in the Private Prison Industry

Private for-profit prisons shouldn’t exist. The idea of introducing the profit motive into the incarceration of human beings is absolutely sickening, and that reality is detailed in this expose here.

Investors in the private prison industry in the U.S. will see major tax cuts under the new Republican tax law, making the unpopular law beneficial for those who count on the country’s mass incarceration crisis for financial gain.

Investments in for-profit prisons will go from 39.6 to 29.6 percent, thanks to the industry’s classification within the tax code.

In a move critics including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have called “unjust” and “unfair,” private prison corporations including CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA) and the Geo Group have been structured as “real estate investment trusts” since 2013. The companies have argued that by housing inmates for the government, they operate in the same way as any company that charges a tenant rent. The restructuring has allowed the companies to pay far less than the corporate tax rate they paid prior to 2013, and now those who own private prison shares will benefit as well.

“It’s going to be great for the investors, banks and hedge funds that…are dependent on increased incarceration and criminalization,” Jamie Trinkle of the racial and economic justice coalition Enlace, told the Guardian.

Investors in the $4 billion industry can expect to see an additional $50 million in earnings from dividends in 2018, according to the Guardian.

Private prisons have found an ally in President Donald Trump and his administration, following efforts by President Barack Obama to phase out the use of for-profit detention facilities. The Geo Group hosted its annual leadership conference at one of the president’s golf clubs shortly before being awarded a government contract to run an immigration detention center.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also quickly reversed Obama’s directive to move away from the use of for-profit prisons, arguing that doing so would impair the government’s “ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” Critics have pointed to reports like one released in 2016 by the Justice Department’s own Office of the Inspector General, which found that private prisons are far less safe than those run by the government.

They’ve also urged companies to divest from the for-profit incarceration industry as a way of limiting private prisons’ power. Enlace has targeted investors in CoreCivic and Geo Group, successfully pressuring cities, universities, and financial institutions to end their investment in the businesses and their major lenders.

World’s Richest Become $1 Trillion Richer in 2017

The richest 500 people would still have enormous amounts of money if they together hadn’t gained $1 trillion, of course. There’s plenty that could be done to improve the lives of many millions of people with that $1 trillion too, and it’s disappointing how much of it continues to sit idle when it could be invested productively instead.

The richest people on earth became $1 trillion richer in 2017, more than four times last year’s gain, as stock markets shrugged off economic, social and political divisions to reach record highs.

The 23 percent increase on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people, compares with an almost 20 percent increase for both the MSCI World Index and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
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It should also be noted that the stock market measures the expected value of future corporate profits, not economic well-being for most people. The stock market is an accurate indication of how well the top 1 percent are doing, however, as they’re the people who stock ownership tends to be concentrated in.

Corporations Trying to Sell the False GOP Narrative on Tax Cuts

Hey, this latest U.S. tax scandal will be the third time in the last 40 years that America runs the detrimental experiment on big tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations. Every rational person should be able to see that it won’t work out well for most people.

The Republican lawmakers have sold the corporate portion of their tax cuts with the claim that it is actually about helping workers. Their argument is that the corporate tax cut will lead to so much growth that the increase in wages will actually be considerably larger than the tax cut itself. The GOP’s story is that lower corporate taxes inevitably mean more investment, which means higher wages for more workers, as well as increased imports and greater productivity.

The vast majority of economists have questioned this basic logic, because in the past, investment has not been highly responsive to after-tax rates of profit. But that didn’t stop the Republican-controlled Congress from passing the tax bill. And now, in an effort to build public support for the corporate tax cut, several major corporations have been announcing bonuses and pay raises for workers.

AT&T announced that it would give a one-time bonus of $1,000 to 200,000 workers. Its rival Comcast also promised a $1,000 bonus for 100,000 workers. Fifth Third Bancorp promised a $1,000 bonus for 13,500 employees, while raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Wells Fargo said it would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, too. Boeing announced a $300 million fund to be spent on training workers, upgrading facilities and matching workers’ charitable contributions.

While the employees getting these increases will undoubtedly be pleased, there are a few caveats that must be kept in mind.

First, many of these announcements refer to one-time bonuses, not permanent pay hikes. This is not what the GOP promised. The corporate tax cuts were made permanent on the grounds that companies needed the expectation of higher future after-tax profits in order to justify greater investment today. If the economy is following the course predicted by the Republicans, all these pay increases should be permanent, too.

The second caveat is that some of the increases may have little to do with the tax cut. They can be attributed instead to the tightening labor market, along with higher minimum wage laws. This is especially true of Wells Fargo, which is based in California. The state has already passed into law a $15 minimum wage, which is scheduled to be fully phased in by 2022.

Wells Fargo will be getting there a bit more quickly if it adopts its $15 minimum in 2018. It will also be applying that hike in parts of the country where the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour still sets the standard, but even in these other areas, a tightening labor market is putting upward pressure on wages. Last summer, Target announced that it would get to a minimum wage of $15 an hour by 2020. That announcement had no obvious connection to any expectation of a corporate tax cut.

Third, but perhaps most significantly, these pay hikes are not especially large relative to the size of the corporate tax cut. Take the example of AT&T: In 2016, the company reported operating income, net of interest, of $19.4 billion. It paid $6.5 billion in taxes, which means an effective tax rate of 33.5 percent.

If it had instead paid the 21 percent tax rate in the new bill, AT&T’s savings would be $2.4 billion. The promised bonus for 200,000 employees comes to $200 million, or less than one-tenth the size of the tax cut. This is very much in line with the expectations of tax bill critics, who predicted that the overwhelming majority of the money that corporations now get to keep will end up as higher profits paid out to shareholders, not as permanently higher wages for workers.

The end of the article says that “So if there is going to be the huge upsurge in investment predicted by tax cut supporters, it should be showing up in the data on orders for capital goods almost immediately. . . Until we get those data, we have little basis to judge whether the tax cut will deliver the economic growth and pay increases the Republicans said would happen.” Prediction in human affairs is often a difficult task, but it’s apparent that the extra profits grabbed via the tax cuts will primarily go towards enriching executives and shareholders instead of increasing worker wages and creating valuable investments. This scam has already been seen enough times to realize that.