Are veggie burgers and cheese-less pizza the solution for a sustainable future?

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Eco-conscious consumers may want to practice portion control before chowing down on that cheeseburger.

Recent studies about the environmental impact of agricultural industries like meat and dairy have produced worrying statistics. Widely cited research suggests that red meat products are responsible for as much as 40 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared to vegetables and grains. The dairy industry is a culprit as well, with traditional dairy farming contributing to greenhouse gas emission through cow manure, feed production, and milk processing. Practices within both industries can contribute to soil degradation, water waste, and harmful runoff.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals outline top-priority objectives for tackling global issues like climate change, food waste, and sustainable agriculture. Major corporations and small startups alike are taking steps toward making these goals realities — and a few companies are specifically focusing on responsible consumption.

Here’s the good news: You don’t need to pare down your diet to carrot sticks in order to make an impact. Maintaining an environmentally friendly lifestyle is less about going completely meat-free, and more about responsible choices. Below are four organizations proving that an eco-conscious lifestyle is easier than you might think.

Beyond Meat

Companies like Beyond Meat want to ensure that carnivorous consumers can have it all: Big, juicy burgers and a sustainable diet. The company produces plant-based products that look and (more importantly) taste like real meat. Beyond Meat’s burgers are so realistic that some grocery stores have even started stocking them in the meat aisle.

Much of the meat industry’s environmental impact revolves around problematic livestock practices, which is why plant-based foods are a more sustainable option. Companies like Beyond Meat can help mitigate many problems inherent in the meat industry — without asking consumers to completely forego their beloved burgers.

Sabra

Sabra’s Plants with a Purpose initiative is a program launched in 2016 that combats food deserts — or areas/neighborhoods that lack access to fresh, healthy, and affordable fruits and vegetables. According to the company’s estimates, more than 23 million Americans live in such deserts. Many of these families ultimately end up turning to less environmentally conscious (and not to mention, less healthy) meals simply due to lack of access and affordability.

Image: sabra

Plants with a Purpose establishes organic work-share gardens in locations like Richmond, Virginia, where Sabra’s Gold LEED certified hummus-manufacturing facility is headquartered. Alongside community education efforts, these types of gardens help improve urban agriculture in underserved communities. 

“This is the land of plenty, but there are plenty who lack far too much including access to the necessity of fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Sabra CEO Shali Shalit-Shoval on the Sabra website. “As a brand dedicated to creating a fresh new way of eating and connecting, we are uniquely positioned to help address this very real and sometimes surprising challenge facing communities across the country.”

Daiya

“Find your happy plate,” riffs plant-based foods brand Daiya

Much like Beyond Meat offers a burger alternative to consumers who crave their daily dose of beef (but want to skip the side of guilt), Daiya offers a slew of dairy-free foods that taste about as close to the real deal as possible: We’re talking pizza, mac and cheese, and even gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. Better yet, the company ensures that every step of their supply chain — from the way ingredients are grown to packaging materials — are sustainable.

Image: daiya

The brand offers a variety of dairy-free dishes for eco-conscious consumers and for people with dietary restrictions. Their products are also free from common allergens like gluten, soy, eggs, peanuts, fish, and shellfish. On Daiya’s website, the company also provides a variety of plant-based living tips and recipe suggestions for getting the most out of their products.

Worldwide demand for milk products is skyrocketing. While the dairy industry is evolving in its own right, companies like Daiya that provide plant-based alternatives are another option for environmentally savvy consumers who hope to cut down their carbon footprint.

Beauty Without Cruelty

It’s not just what we put in our bodies that can have a detrimental environmental impact: What we put on our bodies counts, too. The cosmetics industry is often a perpetrator of ecologically harmful pollutants like some preservatives (including parabens and triclosan), microplastics, and UV filters.

Image: pixabay

A member of the Vegan Society, BWC makes beauty products that are 100% suitable for vegans and vegetarians; in addition, the brand uses recycled materials and responsible sourcing methods to minimize its environmental footprint. Their products range from hair and skincare treatments to nail polishes and makeup. Many of the company’s products are fragrance-free and others are gluten-free, too, for consumers with particularly sensitive skin.

Living an eco-conscious lifestyle doesn’t have to be tedious or difficult. With the rise of sustainability-focused startups as well as concerted efforts from established brands, the bar for responsible consumerism is being raised every day.

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Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/06/companies-reducing-meat-consumption/

Should the Upper Middle Class Take the Biggest Tax Hit?

Humans learn the concept of fairness at a very young age. After all, it doesn’t take long for a child to start whining about a sibling who gets an extra serving of ice cream. As the Republican-controlled Congress tries to push through tax reform this year, one group of Americans may similarly question why it’s coming up a scoop short.

The upper middle class gets relatively few benefits and a disproportionate number of tax hikes under the $1.4-trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week. Families earning between $150,000 and $308,000—the 80th to 95th percentile—would still get a tax cut on average. But by 2027, more than a third of those affluent Americans can expect a tax increase, according to the Tax Policy Center.

If the House bill becomes law, overall benefits for the upper middle class will start out small, and later vanish almost entirely.

Is this fair? Some argue it’s only right for the upper middle class to carry a heavier burden. This is because the top fifth of the U.S. by income has done pretty well over the past three decades while the wages and wealth of typical workers have stagnated. People in the 81st to 99th percentiles by income have boosted their inflation-adjusted pre-tax cash flow by 65 percent between 1979 and 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s more than twice as much as the income rise seen by the middle 60 percent. (The top 1 percent, meanwhile, saw their income rise by 186 percent over the same period, but that’s another story.)

“Many upper-middle-class families will tell you they do not feel wealthy,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning think tank. “Their standard of living [is] closer to the middle class than to the top 1 percent.” The income numbers don’t tell the whole story, he explained. The upper middle class is weighed down by high costs: Affluent workers live in expensive areas, pay a lot for real estate and daycare, and are taxed far more than Americans further down the ladder.

Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, isn’t buying that argument. He’s the author of “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It.”

“There’s a culture of entitlement at the top of U.S. society,” Reeves said. While others focus on rising wealth of the top 1 percent, Reeves argues that the gap is widening between the top 20 percent and everyone else. The upper middle class is guilty of “hoarding” its privileges, using its power to skew the job market, educational institutions, real estate markets, and tax policy for its own benefit, he contends.

“The American upper middle class know how to take care of themselves,” Reeves said during a presentation at the City University of New York last week. “They know how to organize. They’re numerous enough to be a serious voting bloc, and they run everything.”

So by his measure, the tax legislation’s disproportionate hit to the upper middle class is indeed fair.

A family earning $240,000 a year is bringing in four times the U.S. median household income of $59,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. All that money, along with the upper middle class’s political power, buys some huge advantages, Reeves said. For example, affluent parents compete for access to the best schools, bidding up home values in the best school districts. Then, they use zoning rules to prevent new construction, keep property values high, and prevent lower-income Americans from moving in. In the process, children of this demographic end up at the most prestigious universities, nab the best internships and jobs, and ultimately join their parents at the top of U.S. society. 

The very existence of the House tax bill rebuts Reeves’s argument that the upper middle class is in a position to manipulate Washington. (The Senate is considering its own tax legislation, which differs from the House bill in several ways.) Compared with middle class Americans, the upper middle class is less likely to see marginal tax rates fall under the House legislation. The bill also limits or scraps entirely some of the group’s favorite tax breaks, especially deductions for state-and-local taxes, and medical expenses, and tax breaks for education.

If you’re part of the upper middle class and concede you should be paying more, don’t count on wealthier groups making the same sacrifice—at least under the House bill. 

While a repeal of the alternative-minimum tax helps some people with incomes below $300,000, it’s more likely to benefit those on the higher wealth rungs. The very rich, including President Donald Trump, who has been pressing for a legislative victory before the end of his first year in office, would benefit from a repeal of the estate tax, lower corporate tax rates and a lower “pass-through” rate on business income. The House bill explicitly tries to limit the pass-through benefit for doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other high-earning professionals—traditional denizens of the upper middle class. 

This all may seem terribly unfair to members of the upper middle class, but there are some provisions they can take solace in. The bill leaves untouched some sweet tax breaks that predominately benefit people with lower six-figure salaries, such as 529 college savings plans and 401(k)s and other retirement perks. The CBO calculates that two-thirds of the government’s costs for retirement tax breaks go to the top 20 percent.

But beyond these few exceptions, much of the upper middle class will still take it on the chin.

And maybe they should. Higher taxes on the upper middle class make sense to some liberal tax experts—but only if the proceeds are used the right way, they said, for things like better health care, more affordable college, and rebuilding infrastructure. Under the House bill, though, any new tax revenue is used to offset tax cuts—much of which will benefit the super wealthy and corporations, especially over time.

“There would be a lot of people in the country who would be willing to chip in for those goals,” said Carl Davis, research director of the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In the House plan, however, the upper middle class is “going to pay more for a bill that’s going to grow the national debt, and provide the lion’s share of the benefits to corporations and their shareholders.”

Riedl, who has advised Republican candidates, argues the upper middle class should get a more generous tax cut under GOP tax reform. “It’s hard to argue the upper middle class is not currently paying its fair share,” he said. Reeves said the U.S. should ultimately tax the upper middle class more—but “the top 5 percent more still.”

Looking at Republican tax plans, Reeves said, “it’s like they only read half my book.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-20/should-the-upper-middle-class-take-the-biggest-tax-hit

    Bill Gates announces major donation to advance the fight against Alzheimer’s

    Bill Gates speaks speaks at the Goalkeepers 2017 event on Sept. 20, 2017, in New York City.
    Image: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    Bill Gates just donated a piece of his fortune to advance the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

    The philanthropist and Microsoft founder announced in a blog post Monday that he will give $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a public-private partnership that invests in innovative dementia research. Gates will also donate another $50 million in startups working in Alzheimer’s research.

    Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has a long track record of supporting research to eradicate diseases like malaria and polio. But Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia that progressively affects memory and other brain functions, is the first noncommunicable disease he’s fighting.

    The $100 million is his own investment, not his foundation’s. That’s, in part, because it’s personal. 

    “This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s.”

    “It’s a terrible disease that devastates both those who have it and their loved ones,” Gates wrote in his blog post. “This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s. I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew.”

    Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. An estimated 5.5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, and someone new develops the disease every 66 seconds. People of all ages are affected, but 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

    Gates said he spent the last year learning everything he could about Alzheimer’s disease, speaking with researchers, academics, and other industry experts. Those conversations led him to focus on five areas: understanding how the disease unfolds, figuring out how to detect it earlier, funding more innovative and lesser-known drug trials, making it easier for people to enroll in clinical trials, and using data to inform better approaches.

    Gates’ investment in the Dementia Discovery Fund will help support startups as it explores “less mainstream approaches to treating dementia,” he explained.

    “The first Alzheimer’s treatments might not come to fruition for another decade or more, and they will be very expensive at first. Once that day comes, our foundation might look at how we can expand access in poor countries,” Gates wrote, explaining how he might look at the issue beyond his personal investment in the future.

    The announcement is timely, coinciding with National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in November. The goal of the month is to increase awareness and drive home the fact that as many as 16 million people could live with Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2050.

    “People should be able to enjoy their later years — and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s to fulfill that,” Gates said. “I’m excited to join the fight and can’t wait to see what happens next.”

    Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/13/bill-gates-alzheimers-disease-donation/

    Free Money: The Surprising Effects of a Basic Income Supplied by Government

    Skooter McCoy was 20 years old when his wife, Michelle, gave birth to their first child, a son named Spencer. It was 1996, and McCoy was living in the tiny town of Cherokee, North Carolina, attending Western Carolina University on a football scholarship. He was the first member of his family to go to college.

    McCoy’s father had ruined his body as a miner, digging tunnels underneath lakes and riverbeds, and his son had developed a faith that college would lead him in a better direction. So McCoy was determined to stay in school when Spencer came along. Between fatherhood, football practice, and classes, though, he couldn’t squeeze in much part-time work. Michelle had taken an entry-level job as a teacher’s aide at a local childcare center right out of high school, but her salary wasn’t enough to support the three of them.

    Then the casino money came.

    Just months before Spencer was born, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opened a casino near McCoy’s home, and promised every one of its roughly 15,000 tribal members—among them Skooter and Michelle—an equal cut of the profits. The first payouts came to $595 each—a nice little bonus, McCoy says, just for being. “That was the first time we ever took a vacation,” McCoy remembers. “We went to Myrtle Beach.”

    Once Spencer arrived, the checks covered the family’s car payments and other bills. “It was huge,” McCoy says. He graduated college and went on to coach football at the local high school for 11 years. Two decades later, McCoy still sets aside some of the money the tribe gives out twice a year to take his children—three of them, now—on vacation. (He and Michelle are separated.) And as the casino revenue has grown, so have the checks. In 2016, every tribal member received roughly $12,000. McCoy’s kids, and all children in the community, have been accruing payments since the day they were born. The tribe sets the money aside and invests it, so the children cash out a substantial nest egg when they’re 18. When Spencer’s 18th birthday came three years ago, his so-called “minor’s fund” amounted to $105,000 after taxes. His 12-year-old sister is projected to receive roughly twice that.

    Skooter McCoy, 41, got his first casino payout when he was 20. A former high school football coach, McCoy now runs the local Boys’ Club.
    Yael Malka for WIRED
    In 2006, McCoy won the Frell Owl Award for contributions to the welfare of Cherokee children and families. He displays it on his desk at the Boys’ Club.
    Yael Malka for WIRED

    McCoy is now general manager of the Cherokee Boys Club, a nonprofit that provides day care, foster care, and other services to the tribe. At 41, he has a shaved head and wears a gray Under Armour T-shirt over his sturdy frame, along with a rubber bracelet around his wrist that reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

    The casino money made it possible for him to support his young family, but the money his children will receive is potentially life-altering on a different scale. “If you’ve lived in a small rural community and never saw anybody leave, never saw anyone with a white-collar job or leading any organization, you always kind of keep your mindset right here,” he says, forming a little circle with his hands in front of his face. “Our kids today? The kids at the high school?” He throws his arms out wide. “They believe the sky’s the limit. It’s really changed the entire mindset of the community these past 20 years.”

    These biannual, unconditional cash disbursements go by different names among the members of the tribe. Officially, they’re called “per capita payments.” McCoy’s kids call it their “big money.” But a certain kind of Silicon Valley idealist might call it something else: a universal basic income.

    The idea is not exactly new—Thomas Paine proposed a form of basic income back in 1797—but in this country, aside from Social Security and Medicare, most government payouts are based on individual need rather than simply citizenship. Lately, however, tech leaders, including Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Hughes, Tesla’s Elon Musk, and Y Combinator president Sam Altman, have begun pushing the concept as a potential solution to the economic anxiety brought on by automation and globalization—anxiety the tech industry has played its own role in creating.

    If robots and offshoring take all the jobs, or at the very least displace the low-skilled ones, the thinking goes, there may come a time when there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. What then? In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, which some have attributed to this very tension, questions about how to support the so-called working class have only grown. Politicians have latched on too. In her new book, What Happened, Hillary Clinton writes that she considered rolling out a basic income policy during her 2016 campaign. In September, Silicon Valley congressperson Ro Khanna introduced a bill calling for a $1.4 trillion expansion of the earned income tax credit, which would effectively create a small basic income for low-income working people via tax credits. And the mayor of Stockton, California, recently announced that beginning in August 2018, the city plans to give some of its 300,000 citizens $500 a month, an experiment being funded by Hughes’s organization, the Economic Security Project.

    The Eastern Band of Cherokee isn’t the only group whose members get unconditional cash: The Alaska Permanent Fund has been giving $1,000 to $2,000 a year to its citizens for decades, and other Native American tribes have also divided up casino revenues. But the Cherokee example is among the most researched. Back in the 1990s, scholars at Duke were studying the mental health of Cherokee children in the region; then the casino was built, creating the conditions for a natural experiment. Three decades of longitudinal research backs up McCoy’s anecdotal evidence that the money has had profound positive effects.

    As the richest people in America fixate on how to give money to the poorest, the Cherokee program is a case study of whether a basic income is in fact a practical proposal for alleviating economic inequality or just another oversimplified, undercooked Silicon Valley fix to one of the most intractable problems our society faces. Or maybe it’s both.

    The biannual payments to every Cherokee tribal member comes from the profits from the Harrah’s casino.
    Yael Malka for WIRED

    The Qualla Boundary, a 56,000-acre tract in western North Carolina, is the designated home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, who have lived in the region for hundreds of years. The landscape is beautiful but dotted with signs of neglect. Along the stretch of road that spirals its way through the majestic, fog-capped Blue Ridge Mountains, each hairpin curve reveals a single-story motel, ramshackle gas station, or abandoned barbecue stand. Mobile homes sit idly along the roadside accumulating rust. Although the land is held in trust for the Cherokee, many white people, especially poor whites, live there too. The median household incomes in the counties of the Qualla fall well below the national figure. In Swain County, where the Boys’ Club is based, 24 percent of people live below the poverty line, about 12 percent higher than the national median.

    Asheville, with its craft breweries and art galleries, is about an hour’s drive east of the town of Cherokee. “Downtown” in Cherokee refers to a mile-long section of Tsali Boulevard lined with log cabin souvenir shops that hawk handwoven baskets and black bear figurines made in China.

    It was here, in the quiet shadow of the mountain range, that a team of researchers including Jane Costello, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, decided to ground the Great Smoky Mountains Study of Youth. Costello wanted to find out about the need for mental health and psychiatric services for children in rural America, and in 1993 the researchers began studying 1,420 children, 350 of whom were members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. They divided the group into three age cohorts—9-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and 13-year-olds—and gave their parents thick, detailed personality surveys called the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment, which were completed every year until the kids turned 16 and then again every few years until they turned 30. Looking for indicators of behavioral or emotional troubles, the researchers asked questions about whether the children ever engaged in physical fights and whether they had trouble being away from home.

    Costello and her team also recorded household data like parents’ occupations, history of domestic violence, and, crucially, income. When the study began, about 67 percent of the American Indian kids were living below the poverty line. It wasn’t until after the casino opened that Costello began to notice that household income among the Cherokee families was going up. It was subtle at first, but the trend turned sharply upward as time went on, eventually lifting 14 percent of the Cherokee children in the study above the poverty line. Household income for those families who were not Cherokee, meanwhile, grew at a slower rate.

    It was an awakening for Costello, who had accidentally stumbled onto an entirely new line of inquiry on the impact of unconditional cash transfers on the poor. “I suddenly thought, ‘Oh my god,’” Costello remembers.

    Research showed that when the Cherokee families started receiving regular cash payments, children were mentally healthier and stayed in school longer.
    Yael Malka for WIRED

    In 1995, the tribe opened its first casino, a controversial decision among locals, who worried that gambling might attract unsavory characters to the area. It was Joyce Dugan, the tribe’s only female chief and a former teacher, who suggested that if the tribe were to benefit from its new casino, then every one of its members ought to get a cut too. The tribal council agreed.

    The casino started as a glorified arcade, filled with electronic poker and bingo machines, but it has now grown into the 21-story Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. All glass and stone, it juts out of the earth like one of the mountain’s many towering peaks. Inside, the casino floor is dotted with thick pillars, designed to look like giant trees, a reminder that the great outdoors is just beyond the cigarette smoke and zombie-themed slot machines.

    Harrah’s, which operates the casino, takes 3 percent of the $300 million annual profits. The bulk is funneled back into the community, covering infrastructure, health care for every tribal member, and the college education fund. Casino funds have paved roads and paid for a new $26 million wastewater treatment plant. Half of the profits go toward the per capita payments. The casino has become the tribe’s most precious resource.

    The Eastern Band’s change in fortunes also shifted the course of Costello’s research. “We thought it’d be interesting to see if it made any difference” to the children’s mental health, she says. They also started comparing the younger Cherokee children, whose families started accruing money earlier in their lives, to the older ones. They wanted to answer a simple question: Would the cash infusion benefit these kids in measurable ways?

    The answer defied Costello’s initial hypothesis. “I thought, ‘There’s such a pit of poverty there that this isn’t going to make any difference; it’s trivial,’” she remembers. “But it wasn’t.” Now the body of research that she and other academics have built has become a favorite point of reference for universal basic income advocates, providing some of the most compelling evidence yet of the positive effects of bestowing unconditional sums of cash on the poor.

    In two studies, one published in 2003 and a follow-up in 2010, Costello compared children who were lifted out of poverty after the casino opened to those who had never been poor. She scored them based on the presence of what researchers referred to as emotional disorders, like depression and anxiety, as well as behavioral disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

    Before the casino opened, Costello found that poor children scored twice as high as those who were not poor for symptoms of psychiatric disorders. But after the casino opened, the children whose families’ income rose above the poverty rate showed a 40 percent decrease in behavioral problems. Just four years after the casino opened, they were, behaviorally at least, no different from the kids who had never been poor at all. By the time the youngest cohort of children was at least 21, she found something else: The younger the Cherokee children were when the casino opened, the better they fared compared to the older Cherokee children and to rural whites. This was true for emotional and behavioral problems as well as drug and alcohol addiction.

    Other researchers have used Costello’s data to look at different effects of the casino payments. One fear about basic income is that people will be content living on their subsidies and stop working. But a 2010 analysis of the data, led by Randall Akee, who researches public policy at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, found no impact on overall labor participation.

    Of course, the casino also brought jobs to the area, and the majority of the roughly 2,500 people the casino employs are tribal members. This would seem to confound the question of whether the tribal payment or casino income made the difference in the children’s lives, but Akee looked into this too. He found that, among the parents in Costello’s study, employment didn’t go up or down after the opening of the casino.

    Akee also looked at the effects of the money on education and found that more money in the household meant children stayed in school longer. The impact on crime was just as profound: A $4,000 increase in household income reduced the poorest kids’ chances of committing a minor crime by 22 percent.

    All of this amounted to substantial financial benefits for the community as a whole. “This translates to fewer kids in jail, fewer kids in in-patient care,” Costello says. “Then there are the other costs you can’t calculate. The cost of people not killing themselves? That’s a hard one.”

    Costello has been at the center of the research showing the effects of the casino payments, but during all the time in Qualla Boundary she says she had never even heard the term basic income. That is, until she started getting phone calls from people who were interested in the topic. People like Chris Hughes.

    The main drag in Cherokee is lined with log cabin souvenir shops that hawk handwoven baskets and black bear figurines made in China.
    Yael Malka for WIRED
    Visitors to the town are greeted by a giant sculpture of a Cherokee warrior.
    Yael Malka for WIRED

    Hughes grew up about a three-hour drive from Cherokee, in Hickory, North Carolina, where his mother worked as a public school teacher and his father was a traveling paper salesman. But that’s not what attracted Hughes to Costello’s work. He was interested in basic income primarily because at just 33 years old, Facebook has made him filthy rich—he’s worth roughly $430 million—and he’s still grappling with how, exactly, that happened 1.

    “I’m proud of the work we did at Facebook, but I’ve also been very clear that the financial rewards I got were disproportionate to the work we put in,” Hughes says. He’s sitting cross-legged in a leather chair inside NeueHouse, a Manhattan warehouse that’s been converted into a swanky coworking space (top-tier membership costs $3,500 a month). “In human history, you have not had self-made wealth among twentysomethings on the order of magnitude we have today,” Hughes continues. “What’s making that possible? Because whatever it is, is happening at the same time median household wages have barely budged.”

    It’s true. Since 1980, average income for the top .01 percent of Americans has more than tripled. For the bottom 90 percent, it’s basically flat-lined. Hughes is among those who view the disparity as a national crisis. And so he recently launched the Economic Security Project, a two-year effort to invest $10 million from Hughes and others into research on universal basic income.

    This investment comes amid a sudden wave of interest in universal basic income in the tech industry. Y Combinator, the Palo Alto–based startup accelerator, announced in early 2016 that it was starting its own basic income experiment in which a small number of Oakland residents would receive a cash payment and be compared to a control group. Tesla’s Elon Musk, meanwhile, has warned about the rise of the robots, arguing at the World Government Summit earlier this year that a basic income is “going to be necessary.” And when Mark Zuckerberg delivered his commencement speech at Harvard in May, he advocated for a basic income, saying it would provide people with “a cushion to try new ideas."

    According to Ro Khanna, who represents California’s 17th congressional district in the heart of Silicon Valley, the 2016 election woke techies up to the country’s glaring economic inequality. “They don’t want a populist backlash,” he says. “They don’t want a country divided by place.”

    Hughes called Costello while he was looking for basic income studies that the Economic Security Project might like to finance. The goal of the organization is to provide the money so that researchers can investigate the impact of a basic income on people’s lives. While Hughes has not funded Costello’s research, his group has contributed $1 million to Stockton, California’s basic income experiment, as well as to GiveDirectly, a Google-backed charity that is studying the impact of unconditional cash transfers in Kenya, and other projects.

    The Economic Security Project team also recently conducted its own survey of more than 1,000 Alaskans who receive roughly $2,000 per person, per year, through the Alaska Permanent Fund, which is drawn from oil revenues. It found that when faced with a choice between lowering taxes or keeping their cash payments, 71 percent of Alaskans say they want to keep the payments.

    “It feels like security,” Hughes says, “and in an economy that zigs and zags and has more part-time jobs, security is hard to come by.”

    Hughes is no basic income purist. He believes, for instance, that for this economic moonshot to be politically palatable, it would have to be tied to work. “Not just because it seems more intuitive for people,” he says, “but because work is a key source of purpose in our lives.” But the changing nature of work, particularly among top tech employers, is still a critical problem for the American workforce. One illuminating New York Times article illustrated how the men and women who scrub toilets and do other low-skilled work for companies like Apple are hired from contracting companies which set the terms of their employment. Those workers are cut off from the benefits and upward mobility that the company’s engineers and marketers enjoy. Because the workers are contractors, the big tech companies feel no pressure to raise their wages, and aren’t responsible for offering health-care coverage. In 2015, Facebook’s bus drivers voted to unionize in order to secure themselves the kind of worker protections that the social networking giant refused to provide.

    Looked at in this light, the tech-led efforts to push a basic income can appear hypocritical. In a new economy that mints billionaires overnight, giving millions of dollars away for experimentation is the easy part. It’s taxpayers, after all, not individual tech companies, who would have to pay for a basic income should one ever come to pass.

    Spencer McCoy, 21, is now in college and hopes to use his “big money” to start a business.
    Yael Malka for WIRED

    A legislated basic income is in the realm of fantasy at the moment. Even among its proponents there is almost no agreement about the fundamentals, starting with how much money would be an optimal basic income. Ioana Marinescu, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, who researches basic income, says that research on the Alaska fund is enlightening, but not dispositive. “We know $2,000 a year makes a real difference to many people,” Marinescu says. “But would something lower still make a difference? We don’t know.”

    Others argue that the problem with a universal basic income is the “universal” part. In a world in which every American gets a check, some of that money would necessarily be squandered on rich people. Some libertarian groups like the Cato Institute support the idea, seeing it as a way to replace the country’s existing social safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps, an idea liberals deplore. “When resources for antipoverty policies are scarce and dwindling, especially in this Congress, we need to be careful about our targeting,” says Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the former chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

    Bernstein prefers something like an expansion of the earned-income tax credit, such as the one Silicon Valley’s Khanna has introduced, which he says would put extra money where it is needed—in the pockets of working people. He concedes, however, that Khanna’s bill, the Grow American Incomes Now Act, is essentially on a hopeless path in the current Congress. “An idea like Ro’s is going to take a long runway,” Bernstein says. “It ain’t going to happen soon, but that doesn’t mean that if we were strategic it won’t happen later.”

    Even in a fever dream scenario in which a basic income could pass in Congress, there is so far little evidence that it would help the “forgotten men and women” whom Trump described in his campaign—the people whose plight supposedly woke Silicon Valley up to this problem to begin with. After all, $2,000 a year hardly feels like an adequate substitute for a disappeared $50,000 union job at the local steel mill.

    Even in Cherokee country, where the additional income is quite sizable, the payments are not enough to live on. That suggests a basic income may not be the life raft for working class adults that its proponents suggest it would be. But it could be something different: It could be an investment in their children’s future.

    During his 11 years as a high school football coach, and now working at the Boys’ Club, Skooter McCoy has seen just about every way that the casino money can be wasted. He remembers two football players who, after graduation, flew from Asheville to Key West and then road tripped their way back up the coast, stopping in beach town after beach town, and burning through tens of thousands of dollars of their newfound wealth.

    “I said, ‘Boys, you had an opportunity with this money to take care of yourselves for the majority of your lives. What do you have to say for yourselves?’” McCoy remembers. “They said, ‘Well, it was one hell of a month, coach.’”

    The money hasn’t exempted the community from the drug epidemic that has swept through so much of Appalachia, either. In fact, according to McCoy, when the checks come out twice a year, there seems to be an uptick in overdoses. “There are times when some people say members don’t even get a check, because they’re indebted to a dealer,” McCoy says. “When they get their check, they hand it right over.”

    As with any program, there are infinite opportunities for abuse and bad decisionmaking. But over time, the tribe has made tweaks to try to prevent recklessness. The tribal council recently passed legislation, for instance, that staggers the minor’s fund payouts. Now the tribe will give members $25,000 when they turn 18, $25,000 when they turn 21, and the rest when they’re 25.

    Spencer McCoy is now 21. Like his father, he has a square jaw and deep brown eyes, and he talks readily about the importance of Christianity in his life. He followed his dad to Western Carolina University, where he played football, before transferring to Mars Hill University, where he is pursuing a marketing degree. Like Skooter, Spencer imagined a different life for himself. But there’s one crucial difference between them: Unlike his father, Spencer says, he never doubted that he could have that life. “In my grandpa’s time, nobody from my area was going to college. My dad accepted a football scholarship, but without it I doubt he would have been able to go,” Spencer says. “Now we can go to school practically anywhere in the country, and they pay for it. That’s a really big deal.”

    When Spencer first got his “big money,” he says, “I’d get online and I was looking for trucks and stuff, but I thought at the end of the day, it wasn’t really worth it.” Aside from a used bass boat he bought to take out fishing, Spencer has stashed most of the money away in hopes of using it to start his own business one day.

    The true impact of the money on the tribe may not really be known until Spencer’s generation, the first born after the casino opened, is grown up. For the techies backing basic income as a remedy to the slow-moving national crisis that is economic inequality, that may prove a tedious wait.

    Still, if anything is to be learned from the Cherokee experiment, it’s this: To imagine that a basic income, or something like it, would suddenly satisfy the disillusioned, out-of-work Rust Belt worker is as wrongheaded as imagining it would do no good at all, or drive people to stop working. There is a third possibility: that an infusion of cash into struggling households would lift up the youth in those households in all the subtle but still meaningful ways Costello has observed over the years, until finally, when they come of age, they are better prepared for the brave new world of work, whether the robots are coming or not.

    1 Correction: 11/13/2017 10:49 am An earlier version of this story misstated Chris Hughes' net worth. The story has also been updated to clarify that Stockton, California's basic income project will not apply to all 300,000 citizens.

    Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/free-money-the-surprising-effects-of-a-basic-income-supplied-by-government/

    The GOP Tax Plan Is Entering Its Make-or-Break Week

    The $1.4 trillion item on President Donald Trump’s wish list — a package of tax cuts for businesses and individuals that he has said he wants to sign before year’s end — is headed into the legislative equivalent of a Black Friday scrum next week.

    Senate Republican leaders plan a make-or-break floor vote on their bill as soon as Thursday — a dramatic moment that will come only after a marathon debate that could go all night. Democrats are expected to try to delay or derail the measure, and the GOP must hold together at least 50 votes from its thin, 52-vote majority in order to prevail.

    Their chances improved this week when Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she’ll support repealing the “individual mandate” imposed by Obamacare — a provision that Senate tax writers are counting on to help finance the tax cuts. Murkowski had earlier signaled some reservations about the provision; and her support was widely viewed as a positive sign for the tax bill’s chances.

    Trump is scheduled to address Senate Republicans at their weekly luncheon Tuesday afternoon on taxes and the legislative agenda for the rest of the year, according to a statement from Senator John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. 

    The White House previously announced that the president would talk with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders at the White House the same day about an agreement on spending to keep the government open after funding expires on Dec. 8. David Popp, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, both said that meeting is still on the schedule.

    If the tax bill clears the Senate — a step that’s by no means guaranteed — lawmakers in both chambers would have to hammer out a compromise between their differing bills, a process that presents potential pitfalls of its own. For now, though, much of the Senate’s attention will focus on its legislation’s price tag.

    Three GOP senators — Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and James Lankford of Oklahoma — have cited concerns about how the measure would affect federal deficits. Independent studies of the legislation have found that — contrary to its backers’ arguments — its tax cuts won’t stimulate enough growth to pay for themselves. Both the Senate bill, and one that cleared the House earlier this month, would reduce federal revenue over a decade by roughly $1.4 trillion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

    On Wednesday, a report from the Penn Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania said the bill would reduce federal revenue in each year from 2028 to 2033. That finding would mean it doesn’t comply with a key budget rule that Senate Republican leaders want to use to pass their bill with a simple majority over Democrats’ objections.

    Budget Rule

    In essence, that rule holds that any bill approved via that fast-track process can’t add to the deficit outside a 10-year budget window. The JCT has already found that the Senate bill would generate a surplus in its 10th year because it has set several tax breaks for businesses and individuals to expire.

    But JCT hasn’t yet weighed in publicly on the revenue effects in subsequent years. Senate GOP leaders have expressed confidence that their proposal will satisfy the rule ultimately.

    Another potential stumbling block stems from the fact that Congress is trying to act on complex tax legislation under a tight, self-imposed timeline in order to deliver on promises from Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and McConnell.

    For example, Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has said he can’t support the current Senate bill because it would give corporations a tax advantage — a large rate cut to 20 percent from 35 percent — that other, closely held businesses wouldn’t get.

    ‘Change the Most’

    His concern centers on the Senate’s plan for large partnerships, limited liability companies, sole proprietorships and other so-called “pass-through” businesses. Under current law, these businesses simply pass their earnings to their owners, who pay income taxes at their individual rates — currently, as high as 39.6 percent, depending on how much they earn.

    Read more: A QuickTake guide to the tax-cut debate

    The Senate bill would provide pass-through owners with a 17.4 percent deduction for income — but in combination with other provisions, that would result in an effective top tax rate for business income that’s more than 10 percentage points higher than the proposed corporate tax rate.

    The House bill would use an entirely different approach, setting a top tax rate of 25 percent for pass-through business income, but then limiting how much of a business’s earnings could qualify for that rate.

    Reconciling those differences — and addressing Johnson’s concern — may be a complicated process. “That’s part of the equation that could change the most over the next few weeks,” Isaac Boltansky, senior vice president and policy analyst at Compass Point Research and Trading LLC, told Bloomberg Tax. “No one is planning around it yet. There is uncertainty across the board.”

    Meanwhile, the Obamacare issue looms in the background — threatening at least one GOP senator’s vote. Susan Collins of Maine said earlier this week that tax bill “needs work,” and “I think there will be changes.”

    The 2010 Affordable Care Act — popularly known as Obamacare — contained a provision requiring individuals to buy health insurance or pay a federal penalty. Removing that penalty in 2019, as the Senate tax bill proposes to do, would generate an estimated $318 billion in savings by 2027, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The savings would stem from about 13 million Americans dropping their coverage, eliminating the need for federal subsidies to help them afford it.

    Because many of the newly uninsured would be younger, healthier people, insurance premiums would rise 10 percent in most years, the nonpartisan fiscal scorekeeper found.

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-24/trump-s-1-4-trillion-tax-cut-is-entering-its-make-or-break-week

      Blue Apron loses its CEO

      Blue Apron founder Matt Salzberg is stepping aside as the company’s CEO, the company announced Thursday. CFO Brad Dickerson has been promoted to take his place.

      It’s been a volatile past few months for the cooking kit company, which went public in June. Shares closed Thursday at just $2.99 (Blue Apron went public at $10 per share, after originally hoping to go public between $15 and $17).

      But Amazon purchased Whole Foods just days before its debut and investors were concerned that this would eventually impact Blue Apron. There also was skepticism about Blue Apron’s customer retention.

      Blue Apron’s costly new warehouse also put a dip in investor enthusiasm, as it was revealed that the company would spend less on marketing to help finance it. Marketing had been a key element of Blue Apron’s growth.

      Salzberg will be staying on as executive chairman and chairman of the board of directors.

      Blue Apron laid off 6 percent of its employees last month.

      Earlier this month, Blue Apron reported earnings that disappointed investors. The company brought in $210.6 million for the quarter, which is impressive for just a five-year-old business. But growth was slowing and costs were growing.

      Competitor HelloFresh recently went public in Europe. Plated was recently bought for $200 million.

      There are countless meal delivery startups and Blue Apron has been a leader. But many of them offer discounts to new customers, which encourages people to switch from business to business.

      Some of them have a different focus — Sun Basket and Green Chef are focused on organic. Others fit particular diets or are designed to be prepared in minutes.

      Blue Apron has marketed themselves as a way to cook gourmet food without having to hunt down all the ingredients. It still has a cult following amongst some customers, but the stock market is not optimistic that it will be able to keep up its growth.

      Blue Apron was backed by Bessemer Venture Partners and First Round Capital before its IPO. Salzberg previously worked at Bessemer as an associate.

      Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/30/blue-apron-loses-its-ceo/

      Cutting Down on Cow Burps to Ease Climate Change

      In a cream-colored metal barn two hours north of Wellington, New Zealand, a black-and-white dairy cow stands in what looks like an oversize fish tank. Through the transparent Plexiglas walls, she can see three other cows in adjacent identical cubicles munching their food in companionable silence. Tubes sprout from the tops of the boxes, exchanging fresh air for the stale stuff inside. The cows, their owners say, could help slow climate change.

      Livestock has directly caused about one-quarter of Earth’s warming in the industrial age, and scientists from the U.S. departments of agriculture and energy say bigger, more resource-heavy cattle are accelerating the problem. Contrary to popular belief, cows contribute to global warming mostly through their burps, not their flatulence. So about a dozen scientists here at AgResearch Grasslands, a government-owned facility, are trying to develop a vaccine to stop those burps. “This is not a standard vaccine,” says Peter Janssen, the anti-burp program’s principal research scientist. “It’s proving to be an elusive little genie to get out of the bottle.”

      The effort isn’t entirely altruistic. Grasslands is dedicated to boosting New Zealand’s dominant agriculture and biotech industries, and the country’s biggest company, Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd., a $14 billion dairy processor, has vowed to increase its milk exports without increasing carbon emissions. But 2017 is set to be the third-hottest year on record—the top two were 2016 and 2015—so the globe can use all the help it can get, business-minded or not. “It’s essential to reduce global livestock emissions in order to reduce climate change consistent with what countries signed up to under the Paris Agreement,” says Andy Reisinger, deputy director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.

      Janssen.
      Photographer: Jake Mein for Bloomberg Businessweek

      Janssen and his team are trying to purge cow stomachs of methanogens, the microbes that convert hydrogen into methane, a potent greenhouse gas. It’s an unexpectedly delicate and difficult task, because cows rely on a host of other bacteria, fungi, and protozoa in their guts to digest the grasses they eat. Researchers have tried feeding them oregano, tea extracts, probiotics, antibiotics, seaweed (too toxic), coconut oil (too expensive), chloroform (too carcinogenic), and even leftover grains from beer brewing (which made cows poop more nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas).

      So far no vaccine has progressed far enough to be given to the cows in the cubicles, where methane output can be measured. The vaccine must first be successfully tested in the lab and on sheep. Although the scientists have figured out how to produce the desired antibodies in the cows, the animals continue to merrily burp. Janssen’s team is looking for proteins they can use to concoct a stronger vaccine, one that will better prime the cows’ immune systems to attack methanogens. A single methanogen genome has 2,000 proteins, so they’ve narrowed their search to a handful of candidates, which they think could knock out the gassiest microbes.

      A cow is led into the methane measurement center.
      Photographer: Jake Mein for Bloomberg Businessweek

      The hunt for a vaccine costs about $1.4 million a year, about two-thirds of which comes from the New Zealand government. Industry supplies the rest. The money is part of a $7.5 million pool for curbing farming gases meant to address New Zealand’s status as the world’s highest per capita methane emitter. Janssen says it may take five years or longer to create the right vaccine, but it will do much more to reduce bovine emissions than a treatment that Dutch company DSM is developing for bucket-fed cows. That’s because the vaccine will work just as well for grazers. “There aren’t too many ruminants in the world where the animals never get to eat grass,” he says, noting that even cows fattened with feed in a controlled environment typically start out in pastures.

      DSM used computers to create a methane-blocking molecule called 3-nitrooxypropanol, or 3-NOP, that appears to cut burped methane by about a third when sprinkled on a cow’s food. The company, whose annual research and development budget is $500 million, is waiting for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is likely to take at least two more years. “For developed countries, this is the most promising technology at this point,” says Alexander Hristov, a Penn State professor of dairy nutrition who’s tested 3-NOP for DSM. The New Zealanders are leading the vaccine hunt, he says, but they haven’t developed a proven product they can offer to farmers.

      Dairy cows at Massey University, which supplies cows for AgResearch.
      Photographer: Jake Mein for Bloomberg Businessweek

      Janssen, a bespectacled man with the lanky limbs of a longtime mountain explorer, says his team is also working on substances similar to 3-NOP that could be given in pill form. A complicating factor: No one knows how low-methane a cow can go without hurting its health or productivity. Trials suggest cows that burp less seem to cope fine, but scientists want to make sure there are no unintended consequences, such as reduced milk quality or quantity. “We need to understand where that tipping point is,” Janssen says.

      Humans are the final hurdle. Canadian scientists created low-polluting pigs almost a decade ago, but people wouldn’t buy the genetically modified pork. “Farmers will produce what the consumer demands,” says Tim McAllister, who’s conducting trials of 3-NOP and other methane-reduction techniques for the Canadian government at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre in Alberta. Soaring global demand for meat makes climate concerns pressing. North of Wellington, the cows seem content in their tanks, turning to watch as Janssen strides between their boxes. For now, their burps are packed with methane, but they may not have to be.

        BOTTOM LINE – Researchers are painstakingly hunting for compounds that can quell methane-packed cow burps but will still have to sell regulators and the public on the science.

        Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-29/cutting-down-on-cow-burps-to-ease-climate-change

        A whole bunch of startups are trying to be the next Blue Apron, but for baby food

        Little Spoon is one of several baby food startups competing for millennial parents.
        Image: Shutterstock / MaraZe

        In 2017, you might think, what is there left to disrupt? 

        There’s baby food. 

        A crop of new startups are trying to bring meal kit delivery, subscription services, and a tech approach to the mashed-up foods parents have fed their children for millennia. 

        Jennifer Garner co-founded the baby food delivery startup Once Upon a Farm. The startup Yumi offers a similar service. Raised Real has parents blend the baby food themselves in a special machine (sound familiar?). A few meal-delivery startups for adults have added baby food offerings, though the biggest names haven’t yet followed suit. 

        Baby food entrepreneurs are quick to say they’re disrupting a $55 billion industry. And the reason they’re convinced it’ll work? Millennial parents. 

        “Most new parents right now are millennials.” 

        “Most new parents right now are millennials,” said Lisa Barnett, co-founder of the baby food startup Little Spoon. “There are different behaviors and different needs millennials have that previous generations of new parents didn’t have. And that change is accelerating now because more and more millennials are having children.” 

        Millennial parents are more likely to have dual-income households, care more about knowing what goes in their food, and are more open to trying services that help with annoying daily tasks. Those are problems that the traditional baby food brands like Gerber’s aren’t trying too hard to solve. 

        Little Spoon, which launched in April, is the first baby food startup to move beyond home delivery. The startup is offering a new Blueprint service that has parents fill out health information about their children and designs a customized nutrition plan. 

        Parents tell Little Spoon when their child was born, their birth height and weight, if they were delivered by C-section, their head circumference, if they have any food allergies, what foods they’ve been exposed to so far, their level of appetite, if they’ve taken any antibiotics, and if they breastfed or drank formula. 

        The Little Spoon blueprint.

        Image: little spoon

        Based on that information, Little Spoon offers different nutrition plans. A child in a lower percentile for height or weight in a family that doesn’t have a history of that will get foods with more calories and more healthy fats. A child with an iron deficiency will get a higher proportion of iron and a child who might be missing out on some nutrients due to food allergies will get a plan that accounts for that. A baby who was delivered via C-section—so wasn’t exposed to the bacteria that babies get when delivered via the birth canal—gets a meal plan that accounts for that lack of exposure. 

        Danielle Grant, a pediatrician based in Austin, Texas, said building a nutrition plan based on these data points wouldn’t be necessary for most parents but wouldn’t be harmful. 

        “It’s a preference,” Grant said. “Height and weight at current visit would be important. And being formula fed versus breastfed is a big question that could determine a type of plan because breast milk is missing some vitamin D formula has and formula is missing some nutrients breastmilk has.” 

        All of Little Spoon’s meals that take into account these factors are organic, with blends like Beet Tahini Chickpea Apple Brown Rice Cardamom and Pea Carrot Apple Dill Coconut Oil. 

        This all makes feeding your baby sound incredibly complicated, and Little Spoon is trying to reach a certain kind of parent. Some parents who use Little Spoon, Barnett said, are overwhelmed by the switch from breast milk or formula to blends and solid foods and want to make sure they’re feeding their children the right combination of nutrients. 

        Little Spoon is trying to reach a certain kind of parent. 

        “For adult [meal kits], it’s really just a time thing,” Barnett said. “For your child, it’s that you have to feed them food and there aren’t many options out there they’re ready to eat. It’s about a trust factor. Our authority is really important to parents.” 

        Little Spoon offers meals for children from the “first bite” between four and six months up through 18 months. Parents get a delivery of at least 14 meals every two weeks, which costs a starting rate of $34.50 a week. The food needs to be kept cold and lasts for the two weeks it’s intended to. Once it’s opened, it’s good for about that same day. 

        The startup’s founders, with backgrounds in retail, food, and venture capital, priced their food around statistics that say the median household income for families with children is $70,000 a year. It costs about the same as buying your baby food at Whole Foods, but definitely costs more than Gerber’s. 

        The meal plan starts with simple, single-ingredient foods before moving to the blends that mix multiple ingredients and all superfoods, spices, and textured foods like rice and quinoa. 

        Next, Little Spoon—and its competitors—could move into finger foods and feeding children past 18 months. 

        “If you look at all the baby food that exists out there ready-to-eat, it’s been sitting there longer than the baby eating it has been alive,” Barnett said. 

        May the best baby-food startup win. 

        Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/22/baby-food-delivery-startups-little-spoon/

        Introducing Halo Top: the ‘healthy’ ice-cream taking over America

        Marketed as the low-calorie, high-protein and low-sugar alternative to ice-cream it is now outselling tubs from Ben & Jerrys and Hagen-Dazs

        Everyone you love is gone. There is only ice-cream is the darkly humorous sign off used in a recent ad for fast-growing American ice-cream brand Halo Top.

        The Black Mirror-style commercial, which ran in US cinemas before films including the horror flick It, features an elderly woman being force-fed ice-cream by a robot in some dystopian future.

        It was directed by Mike Diva, who has built a YouTube following with his advertising parodies, and who typifies the offbeat digital marketing aimed at millennials that has helped turn Halo Top into serious competition for bestselling brands such as Magnum, Ben & Jerrys and Hagen-Dazs.

        The somewhat noir US TV ad for Halo Top ice-cream.

        The Los Angeles-based company was founded at the start of the decade by Justin Woolverton, a former lawyer who suffered hypoglycemic episodes when he indulged his sweet tooth. So he bought a $20 ice-cream maker on Amazon and began trying to create healthier alternatives. It was just something that I was making in my kitchen because I didnt like sugar, he told one interviewer about his Eureka moment.

        While most ice-creams are a sugar and fat-laden treat, Halo Top bills itself as a low-calorie, high-protein and low-sugar alternative to mainstream brands, with flavours such as mochi green tea and rainbow swirls. Its recipe uses sugar substitute Stevia, which means a scoop of its Vanilla Ice contains 60 calories versus 250 in a similar sized dollop of Hagen-Dazs.

        Reports in the US media have begun to question whether Halo Top is really as healthy as the marketing makes out, with some dieticians raising concerns about the use of artificial sweeteners.

        Halo Top is now stocked in supermarkets across America, with the company shifting nearly $50m (38m) worth of ice-cream in the US last year. Its sales accelerated in 2016 after GQ writer Shane Snow lived on Halo Top ice-cream for 10 days and the resulting article went viral.

        The brands rise has been propelled by social media: it has 590,000 followers on Instagram and more than 700,000 on Facebook.

        The social media buzz helped Halo Top chalk up another milestone in the summer when industry data showed its pint pots were outselling Unilevers Ben & Jerrys and Nestls Hagen-Dazs in US grocery stores for the first time. Halo Tops parent company, LA-based Eden Creamery, is seizing the day with one recent report suggesting it is exploring a sale that could value the company at up to $2bn.

        Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/20/introducing-halo-top-the-healthy-ice-cream-taking-over-america

        Apples Billion-Dollar Bet on Hollywood Is the Opposite of Edgy

        Days before Apple Inc. planned to celebrate the release of its first TV show last spring at a Hollywood hotel, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told his deputies the fun had to wait. Foul language and references to vaginal hygiene had to be cut from some episodes of , a show featuring celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Blake Shelton, and Chelsea Handler cracking jokes while driving around Los Angeles.

        While the delay of was widely reported last April, the reasons never were. Edits were made, additional episodes were shot, and Apple shifted resources to another show. When was released in August, it didn’t make much of a splash. The early stumbles highlight the challenges ahead as Apple mounts an ambitious foray into showbiz. The company plans to spend $1 billion on TV shows over the next year and has hired a team that’s already bidding for projects against the biggest media companies in the world.

        With $262 billion in cash and securities in its coffers, Apple has the money to make as much TV as anyone, but some in Hollywood are beginning to wonder whether it has a clear strategy. The most valuable company in the world, Apple is under the constant glare of regulators, reporters, and competitors. Furthermore, the people who use the hundreds of millions of Apple devices have pretty mainstream views about the brand’s appeal. Macs, iPhones, and iPads are also often in the hands of children—a group unsuited for much of the edgy programming that’s fueled the new golden age of television.

        The secretive company says little about its plans. No one in Hollywood knows where the shows will be available to watch, how much they’ll cost, or even how Apple will publicize them. But in recent weeks, a visit to Apple offices in the Culver City suburb of Los Angeles has become as much a rite of passage for Hollywood producers, agents, and filmmakers as dining at Spago. So clues are beginning to emerge, based on interviews with more than a dozen people who’ve met with Apple executives or work there.

        The company has had many fits and starts in Hollywood over the past two years, with as many as four different executives claiming to be responsible for its big move into Tinseltown. To lead the latest charge, Apple hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, former heads of Sony Corp.’s TV studio. The two men have sterling reputations as key members of the studio that produced . They’ve hired other industry veterans to oversee the development of new shows. They also plan to hire at least 70 staffers—including development executives, publicists, and marketers—to fill out their division. “They are professionals with deep relationships with many of the people who make some of the best shows on TV today,” says Jon Avnet, who directed 10 episodes of Sony’s TV show .

        Erlicht and Van Amburg have agreed to remake Steven Spielberg’s anthology series  with NBCUniversal and are in the bidding for another show, about morning TV show hosts played by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. Apple wants to have a small slate of shows ready for release in 2019. “I think for both NBC and Apple, it’s about finding that sweet spot with content that is creative and challenging but also allows as many people in the tent as possible,” says Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment.

        However, Apple isn’t interested in the types of shows that become hits on HBO or Netflix, like —at least not yet. The company plans to release the first few projects to everyone with an Apple device, potentially via its TV app, and top executives don’t want kids catching a stray nipple. Every show must be suitable for an Apple Store. Instead of the nudity, raw language, and violence that have become staples of many TV shows on cable or streaming services, Apple wants comedies and emotional dramas with broad appeal, such as the NBC hit , and family shows like . People pitching edgier fare, such as an eight-part program produced by filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón and starring Casey Affleck, have been told as much.

        Yet like Netflix Inc., Apple is thinking globally. The company hired Amazon.com Inc. executive Morgan Wandell to oversee its international division and is about to hire Jay Hunt to oversee development in Europe.

        All this has led many producers to label Apple as conservative and picky. Some potential partners say they walk into Apple’s offices expecting to be blown away by the most successful consumer technology company in the world only to run up against the reality of dealing with a giant, cautious corporation taking its first steps into a new industry.

        Apple isn’t the first tech company to underwhelm Hollywood. Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corp. spent millions of dollars on TV shows before pulling back within a couple of years, frustrated by the slow pace of development and their inability to attract audiences. Even Amazon, at first considered a success story, is now drawing complaints from writers and producers over casting decisions and instances of buying scripts but not producing them. The online retailer also fired its studio chief in October over allegations of sexual harassment.

        Streaming video is just one of many fronts in the global battle between technology titans. After years of flirting with Hollywood, Silicon Valley companies are finally writing big checks, spurring a doubling of video production over the past decade. Amazon spent an estimated $4.5 billion this year on movies and TV shows, while Facebook and YouTube will spend more than $1 billion each. Netflix, which plans to spend $8 billion in 2018, dwarfs them all.

        Yet no one arouses more interest in Hollywood than Apple. One reason it quickly climbed the list of places to pitch new shows: the almost cult-like attachment many have for its phones. “Their brand is the most important thing,” says Avnet, who’s made shows for Snapchat and YouTube and is in the process of making one for Facebook.

        By funding original shows, the company also can remind customers to think of the Apple TV streaming device before the Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick and to use Apple’s year-old TV app instead of Amazon Prime Video or YouTube. With iPhone growth slowing, the company is looking to other divisions to deliver sales. ITunes, Apple Music, and the TV app are part of its services business, where CEO Cook wants to double revenue by 2020, to about $50 billion.

        Yet Apple isn’t trying to compete with Walt Disney Co. or Netflix to become the biggest backer of TV shows and movies on the planet. Instead, the company wants its shows to complement those of other networks and streaming services that consumers already watch on Apple devices. Its new shows, however, will no longer be placed on Apple Music, which will limit its focus to music-related video.

        Whether Apple can channel consumer demand in TV as well as it does in smartphones remains to be seen. Around the time Apple delayed the release of , its top brass also decided the TV unit should move up the release of , a reality competition series in which entrepreneurs pitched celebrity investors on their idea for an app, so it would make its debut on Apple Music in time for the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Apple execs loved the show and thought it would endear the tech giant to software writers. The show wasn’t supposed to be released for a couple of months, and there was no marketing plan in place—a vital step in the age of too much TV. Apple pressed ahead, and the show came and went with little fanfare beyond a couple of savage reviews. The show is “a bland, tepid, barely competent knock-off of ,” according to ’s Maureen Ryan. “There’s no reason” for Hollywood to lose sleep over it, she wrote. Apple is betting the same won’t be said about its broader TV strategy.

          BOTTOM LINE – Apple will spend $1 billion next year on programming for television. By sticking with mainstream shows, it could miss out on viewers who increasingly favor edgier fare.

          Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-25/apple-s-billion-dollar-bet-on-hollywood-is-the-opposite-of-edgy