- Weight Watchers recently introduced a new app called Kurbo, which is aimed at helping adolescents between the ages of 8-17 lose weight.
- Some are happy to see the company create an easy to use app for the millions of children struggling with their weight.
- But many parents and nutritionists worry that the app could promote unhealthy relationships with food and worsen or create body image issues and eating disorders.
WW Launches Kurbo
More than 80,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for Weight Watchers to remove its new weight loss app aimed at children.
Weight Watchers, which now calls itself WW, introduced a new app called Kurbo last week, saying the program is designed “to help kids and teens ages 8-17 reach a healthier weight,” according to a WW press release.
In 2018, WW acquired the nutrition app, which is based on Stanford University’s pediatric obesity program and “30 years of clinical nutrition and behavior change research,” according to the app’s website.
After purchasing Kurbo, WW spent about a year developing it, adding in features like breathing-exercise instructions, a Snapchat-inspired interface, and multi-day streaks to encourage daily activity.
Users in the U.S. can download the free app, add in their height, weight, age, and health goals, and begin logging in what they eat. In their statement announcing the program, WW explained that Kurbo uses the “Traffic Light System” to guide adolescents towards healthy food choices.
“Kids and teens are encouraged to eat more of the healthy “green light” foods (such as fruits and veggies), be mindful of portions of “yellow light” foods (such as lean protein, whole grains and dairy) and gradually reduce but still include consumption of “red light” foods (such as sugary drinks and treats),” the statement reads.
Users can also consult with a personal coach through the app for a fee, starting at $69 a month. This gives them access to 15-minute video chat sessions with Kurbo coaches every week.
Kurbo says their coaches are “specially-trained, Kurbo-certified and come from a diverse range of professional backgrounds including counseling, fitness and nutrition-related fields.”
The company also claims that its mission is to help kids build long-lasting healthy habits.
“According to recent reports from the World Health Organization, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. This is a global public health crisis that needs to be addressed at scale,” Joanna Strober, co-founder of Kurbo, said in a statement released by WW.
“As a mom whose son struggled with his weight at a young age, I can personally attest to the importance and significance of having a solution like Kurbo by WW, which is inherently designed to be simple, fun and effective.”
Fans of WW are supportive of the app, saying they hope the company can transform the lives of children the way it has for so many adults. Others point out that millions of young people struggle with their weight, so it is important to have easily accessible tools to help with weight loss.
About 13.7 million U.S. children between 2-19-year-old are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the CDC uses data based on body mass index (BMI), a measurement based on weight and height that many health professionals have slammed as arbitrary and inaccurate.
Despite some support, many parents and nutritionists are concerned that Kurbo can create unhealthy relationships with food at a highly impressionable time in a child’s life. In fact, some studies suggest that childhood weight loss efforts can lead to or worsen eating disorders and body image issues.
Critics have also expressed concerns about specific points on the app, including the success stories section which shows before and after photos of children as young as eight, along with their weight loss totals and testimonials.
“Looking at before and after pictures of kids who have lost weight is absolutely something that could lead to children to feel horrible about themselves and it really is a form of body shaming,” Keri Glassman, a New York City-based registered dietitian told Good Morning America.
“They could have created an app for children that promoted healthy eating and healthy lifestyle and good health education and information and help children boost confidence,” she said. “But I feel like the way this app was built is so similar to Weight Watchers, and just geared completely towards weight loss, weight loss, weight loss.”
Others have criticized the goals section on the app, which includes the options: eat healthier, lose weight, make parents happy, get stronger and fitter, have more energy, boost my confidence, or feel better in my clothes.
Kurbo has stressed that the app is meant to be a “family-based-approach,” but many say that working to lose weight to satisfy family members can be damaging and parents handing their child this app can make them feel like something is wrong with them.
Nutritionists have also criticized the coaches, who they argue are not health-care experts. Based on staff descriptions on the app’s website, the trained experts include people with degrees in economics, tourism management, and communications.
However, WW responded to this with WW’s Chief Scientific Officer Gary Foster telling CNBC: “If we want to live our purpose of making wellness accessible to all and doing it outside an academic medical center, we’re not going to be able to hire pediatricians, dietitians, exercise physiologists and psychologists.”
“What we do well is take science and scale it, measure the impact to make sure we’re living up to our purpose.”
WW was likely expecting some backlash over the app, but still, many are sharing the petition that calls for its removal to spread awareness about the concerns. Holly Stallcup, the woman who started the petition told GMA that she is recovering from an eating disorder herself.
“The story that you are hearing over and over again is all of us who started struggling at the age that this app is targeted for saying it was already bad enough without an app,” she said.
“If we had had this app in our hands to literally log every bite of food to eat, we know that some of us would have actually died from our diseases because it would have so enabled our unhealthy, mentally ill thinking.”
The petition quickly spread online and has even been shared by Good Place actress Jamella Jamil, a vocal advocate for body positivity.
Christy Harrison, a registered dietitian who specializes in helping people recover from disordered eating, penned an opinion piece in The New York Times warning parents not to let their children use this app, or other similar weight loss programs.
“Our society is unfair and cruel to people who are in larger bodies, so I can empathize with parents who might believe their child needs to lose weight, and with any child who wants to,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, attempts to shrink a child’s body are likely to be both ineffective and harmful to physical and mental health.”
“If we truly want to help children be the healthiest and happiest people they can be, we need to stop putting them on diets of any kind, which are likely to worsen their overall well-being. Instead, we need to start teaching them to trust their own inner wisdom about food. And we need to help them make peace with their bodies, at any size,” she added
Pet Shop Employee Fired After Streamer Catches Disturbing Dog Throwing on Video
- A Twitch user streaming inside an LA pet shop caught an employee violently throwing a dog whose head can be heard hitting the ground in a now-viral clip.
- The store owner quickly apologized for the incident on social media, saying that the dog is doing fine and was taken to a veterinarian.
- The owner added that the worker in question is no longer employed at the business.
Dog Throwing Caught on Live Stream
An employee at a Los Angeles, California pet shop and rehoming center is no longer working at the store after they were caught on a live stream violently throwing a dog onto a concrete floor.
The incident happened Wednesday at Bark n’ Bitches Dog Boutique, a business that describes itself on its website as “L.A.’s first HUMANE Pet Shop.”
Twitch user RIPRoyce, whose real name is Royce Thomas, happened to be live streaming at the shop and caught the disturbing incident on camera.
In a clip from the stream, which has since shocked many across social media, it appears that one dog begins to bite at a smaller puppy. Then, the employee in question separates them by aggressively grabbing the dog by the back of its neck and throwing it onto the ground.
A hard thud can be heard as the dog hits the floor offscreen. Witnesses gasp and are stunned by what they’ve just seen.
The dog is visibly shaken by the throw and hides under a nearby bench to recover. When witnesses go over to console the animal, they can be heard saying that it landed on its head.
Thomas told ABC7 that she never saw the employee again after the incident. She added that another employee came to hold the dog and tried to calm customers.
According to Thomas, some people in the store and some of her followers have contacted police about the incident.
Shop Owner Responds
The clip sparked outrage on social media, with many calling for the employee to be fired or charged over the incident.
The pet shop posted a public apology later that night on its social media pages, with its owner Shannon von Roemer writing, “My deepest apologies for this incident. The dog was playing and acting normal after this horrific incident. She was taken to the vet and was cleared 100%. We are grateful. #rescuedogs #inexcusable #rescuedogsrule”
A text image included with the apology also called the incident “inexcusable” and added, “We will not tolerate this or any actions that put our rescues in harms way. The appropriate actions are being taken. This is NOT what we stand for.”
A few hours later, the owner followed up with a video where she thanked everyone who has reached out to them with their concerns. “We’ve been in business for almost 14 years, and this is a first,” she said.
“I just want you to be rest assured that all actions will be taken to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. I do want you to know that the employee is no longer with us and that the dog is actually doing dine and did go to the vet.”
Next Round of the Streaming War Kicks-Off With Disney+ Launch
- After months of anticipation, Disney+ officially launched. While its content was met with largely decent reviews, it did face criticism from fans who were upset that the site crashed and had connection problems on its first day.
- Meanwhile, an executive at Apple TV+ stepped down after the platform premiered two weeks ago to less than exciting reviews.
- Apple and Disney are the latest to introduce their own streaming services, with more to follow. With Disney+ now in full swing, many wonder what the future of streaming will look like, and what will happen to platforms like Netflix.
With the launch of Disney+ in full swing, the streaming wars are seeing its latest– and potentially biggest– battle.
On Tuesday, Disney’s highly anticipated streaming service launched in the United States. Containing content that ranges from Disney’s classic animated films, to Star Wars and Marvel productions, the buildup to Disney+ was filled with fanfare and anticipation.
When users went to watch both old and new shows, however, many hit a bump in the road. Several fans reported having connection issues with the service. In an appropriate nod to the studio’s catalog, Ralph and Venellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet deliver the bad news in an error message.
Fans online reported receiving this message when trying to view content, load shows, and log in to or edit their profiles. Disney was the number one trending topic on Tuesday morning, accompanied by hashtags like #DisneyPlusDown and #DisneyPlusFail. Disney+ responded on Twitter, saying demand for the service “exceeded our highest expectations.”
Despite this bump in the road, the content on Disney+ has generated a relative amount of praise. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has been hailed by USA Today as “nostalgia done right”
The Mandalorian, the highly anticipated Star Wars series, has also seen fairly decent reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it a “safe” but “entertaining blockbuster” while The Verge said it proved Star Wars can work on the small screen.
The Mandalorian became a trending topic of its own, followed by other nostalgic Disney shows like Gargoyles and Lizzie McGuire.
Apple TV+ Executive Leaves
Disney, however, was not the only streamings service making headlines. The Hollywood Reporter announced that Kim Rozenfeld is leaving his role as the head of scripted, unscripted and documentary programming at Apple TV+.
Rozenfeld will still remain with the company in some capacity. According to the Reporter, he will work as a producer and has a first-look deal with Apple.
Apple TV+ launched two weeks ago to less than enthusiastic reviews. Of its four scripted originals, the service heavily marketed its celebrity-packed series The Morning Show. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon, the show was picked up for a second season before it even aired. Reviews for it ended up being less than favorable.
Each of the service’s original shows generated low buzz in comparison to larger projects at other streaming services like Netflix. Variety published a study done by Parrot Analytics that looked at the demand for new shows in 2019 following their first 24 hours of release. Apple TV+’s content all fell at the bottom of the list, with The Morning Show squarely in last place.
Not all press for Apple TV+ was negative, though. Starting at $5 a month, it is among the more affordable streaming options. The remainder of its scripted shows also got the green light for second seasons.
Future of Streaming
These stories do shine a light onto the world of streaming and the so-called “streaming wars” that studios, networks, and other services are finding themselves fighting. In the cases of Disney+ and Apple TV+, both have had problems as they launched, a technical error in one case and a business shake-up in another. Still, based on excitement and critical review alone, it does feel that Disney+ is leading the charge as far as services that could become a serious threat to dethrone Netflix as the king of streaming.
Disney owns multiple facets of the entertainment industry, including ABC, Marvel, ESPN, 20th Century Fox, and earlier this year gained full control of Hulu. With all these properties in its back pocket, it has almost always seemed the obvious leader in this fight.
With other companies poised to launch services of their own, it begs the question: how do they plan to compete with Disney’s large catalog of content?
Right now, it seems NBC Universal will have their service, Peacock, be free to users with ads. On the other hand, HBO Max, which comes from Warner Media, is aiming to be on the more expensive side of the spectrum at $14.99 per month. Both have been in ongoing battles to get their content back from places like Netflix to put on their own services. Peacock has secured The Office and HBO Max grabbed Friends. Those two shows are among the most popular on Netflix.
See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNBC)
Apple Card Faces Investigation After Accusations of Gender Discrimination
- A popular Twitter thread has accused Apple Card, which is put out in partnership with Goldman Sachs, of gender bias.
- A programmer said he got 20 times the credit card limit as his wife, despite the fact that they file joint tax returns and the fact that she has a higher individual credit score than he does.
- Others said they faced similar problems, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who now holds a ceremonial role at the company.
- Goldman Sachs insisted that gender is not a factor in card applications and approvals, but New York’s Department of Financial Services said it will investigate.
Thread Accusing Apple Card of Gender Bias Goes Viral
The New York Department of Financial Services says it will be looking into potential gender discrimination from Apple Card after several people, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, accused it of having a bias.
Problems with Apple Card, which is made in partnership with Goldman Sachs, first made their way to the surface when programmer and author David Heinemeier Hansson posted a twitter thread accusing it of sexism. He wrote that it approved him of a higher limit than his wife.
According to Hansson, even after his wife paid off her card in full, she was not allowed to spend until the next billing period.
He initially said that customer service was overall unhelpful when trying to address the problem. One day after posting his thread, however, he followed up to say that his wife’s limit was bumped up.
As for his wife’s experience with Apple, he says she spoke to two representatives. He claims that the first said it was not discrimination and blamed it on the algorithm.
The second encouraged his wife to check her credit score again. Hansson and his wife both ended up checking their scores and learned that his wife actually had a higher score than he did.
He continued to share his frustrations with this algorithm and its lack of transparency.
Steve Wozniak and Others Back Up the Claim
Once this thread blew up, many others said they had experienced a similar problem.
Just read this thread. My wife has a way better score than me, almost 850, has a higher salary and was given a credit limit 1/3 of mine. We had joked that maybe Apple is just sexist. Seems like it’s not a joke. Beyond f’ed up.— Carmine Granucci (@whoiscarmine) November 9, 2019
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who now holds a ceremonial role at the company, also replied to Hansson. Wozniak said his wife got ten times less than he did, despite them having shared assets and accounts.
I’m a current Apple employee and founder of the company and the same thing happened to us (10x) despite not having any separate assets or accounts. Some say the blame is on Goldman Sachs but the way Apple is attached, they should share responsibility.— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) November 10, 2019
He also said his wife had difficulty with customer service, and could not use her card after paying it off as well.
Janet made the phone calls to the number given but got nowhere. She also has paid off her card totally but still can’t use it until the next billing cycle.— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) November 10, 2019
In a Sunday interview with Bloomberg, Wozniak elaborated on his concerns about Apple Card and the algorithm behind it.
“These sorts of unfairnesses bother me and go against the principle of truth. We don’t have transparency on how these companies set these things up and operate,” he told the outlet. “Our government isn’t strong enough on the issues of regulation. Consumers can only be represented by the government because the big corporations only represent themselves.”
“Algos obviously have flaws,” he added. “A huge number of people would say, ‘We love our technology but we are no longer in control.’ I think that’s the case.”
Goldman Sachs and New York’s DFS Respond
While some did respond to both Hansson and Wozniak saying they did not experience this, tweets accusing Apple Card of gender bias blew up, prompting several responses.
Goldman Sachs released a statement on Sunday saying that, “In all cases, we have not and will not make decisions based on factors like gender.”
“With Apple Card, your account is individual to you; your credit line is yours and you establish your own direct credit history,” the statement read. “Customers do not share a credit line under the account of a family member or another person by getting a supplemental card.”
They also said that applications are evaluated independently, looking at things like income, credit score, and debt management.
Linda Lacewell, the Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services said she would be looking into the matter.
“We will work to investigate what may have gone wrong, and if the algorithm used by Apple Card did indeed promote unlawful discrimination we will take appropriate action,” she wrote in a Medium post on Sunday. “But this is not just about looking into one algorithm — DFS wants to work with the tech community to make sure consumers nationwide can have confidence that the algorithms that increasingly impact their ability to access financial services do not discriminate and instead treat all individuals equally and fairly no matter their sex, color of skin, or sexual orientation.”
She encouraged consumers who have been affected by this, as well as tech leaders who have commentary on it, to reach out to New York’s DFS.