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Weight Watchers’ Kids App Draws Backlash From Parents and Nutritionists

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  • 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.

Source: CNBC

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. 

Prices of Kurbo coaching listed on their website.

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.”

Concerns Raised 

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. 

Source: CNBC

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

See what others are saying: (Time) (CNBC) (Good Morning America)


Business

Walmart Ends E-Cigarette Sales

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  • Walmart announced its plans to stop selling e-cigarettes on Friday.
  • The company said it made its decision in light of the “uncertainty” regarding the products on local and federal levels.
  • Federal health officials have growing concerns about the products and have potentially linked over 500 illnesses and eight deaths to them.

Walmart Ends E-Cigarette Sales

Walmart plans to end its sale of e-cigarettes due to ongoing concerns about the products.

“Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations,” the company said Friday in a confirmed internal memo obtained by CNBC.

National Concerns About E-Cigarettes

This decision comes as both New York and Michigan have banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. President Donald Trump has also suggested his interest in banning flavored products. 

Recently, federal health officials have become increasingly concerned about their potential link to serious illnesses. They investigating 530 cases of people who have contracted vaping related illnesses. Eight people have died from diseases believed to be related to vaping since August. 

This is not the first decision of this sort the company has made this year. Back in May, Walmart said it would raise its minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 to prevent possible sales to minors.

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Fox Business) (Engadget)

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School Shooting-Themed Hoodies Slammed by Gun Violence Victims

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  • A fashion brand faced criticism for designing hoodies that featured bullet holes along with the names of schools that were sites of some of the nation’s deadliest school shootings. 
  • Bstroy, a streetwear line known for rebellious designs, said it wanted to make a bold statement about gun violence “while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes.”
  • While the hoodies were just created for their New York fashion show, the designers are now considering selling the sweatshirts despite widespread outrage from victims.

School Shooting Sweatshirts 

A fashion brand known as Bstroy sparked outrage on social media after designing school shooting-themed hoodies for a show during New York Fashion Week.

The brand’s latest collection, designed by Brick Owens and Duey Catorze, featured distressed hoodies with the names of schools that were all impacted by gun violence and even included bullet hole details throughout each piece.  

The schools included in the show were Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, all sites of some of the nation’s deadliest school shootings. 

Backlash From Victims 

Photos from the runway posted to Instagram over the weekend were quickly met with a wave of backlash from commenters who identified themselves as shooting survivors and friends or relatives of gun violence victims. 

Comments below Instagram images posted to Bstroy and Owens’ accounts.

A spokesperson for the Vicky Soto Memorial Fund, which was created after teacher Victoria Soto was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, took to Twitter to call the designs “absolutely horrific.”

“A company is [making] light of our pain and other’s pain for fashion,” she continued. “Selling sweatshirts with our name and bullet holes. Unbelievable.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie died during the Stoneman Douglas shooting also tweeted, “This has me so upset. If any of my followers no anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately.”

Shawn Sherlock, the aunt of another Stoneman Douglas victim named Gina Rose Montalto, said the company “should be ashamed of taking advantage of [her niece’s] death to make money.”

More About Bstroy

Bstroy, which describes itself as a “Neo-Native Menswear Design House,” was featured in a New York Times piece published last week about the next generation of high-end streetwear. The Times specifically pointed to the brand’s rebellious takes on classic designs.

They’re probably most well known for their double-edge jeans, which essentially look like two pairs of jeans stitched together at the ankle holes, as well as their Nike shoes dipped in concrete. 

@bstroy.us
Source: Theface.com

According to the paper, the brand has also designed “graphic T-shirts that nod to preppy interests like tennis and fencing, but with the sports gear replaced by guns.”

@bstroy.us

“We are making violent statements,” one designer told The Times. “That’s for you to know who we are, so we can have a voice in the market. But eventually that voice will say things that everyone can wear.”

Bstroy’s Response 

Late Tuesday, Owens posted a handout from the show on Instagram that read: “Sometimes life can be painfully ironic. Like the irony of dying violently in a place you considered to be a safe, controlled environment, like school. We are reminded all the time of life’s fragility, shortness, and unpredictability yet we are also reminded of its infinite potential.”

In an email sent to the Today show, Owens explained that he and Catorze were trying to make a bold statement. “We wanted to make a comment on gun violence and the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention and what its origins are, while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes,” the designer wrote.

“Also built into the device is the fact that our image as young, black males has not been traditionally awarded credit for introducing avant-garde ideas. So many people have assumed our message to be lazy just because of what they’ve been taught about black men. These hoodies were made with all of these intentions in mind, and to explore all of these societal issues. Not just the surface layer of gun violence in schools but also the different ways that we relate to each other and the dated ideas that still shape the assumptions we make about each other,” he wrote.

The designers also spoke to The Cut about the response to the collection and said, “People get the opportunity to form their opinions before they get all the information and here we see the internal desire of society rear its head.” 

“People seem to want to release hateful energy as a default,” they added. 

The designers then explained that they are now considering whether or not to put the hoodies up for sale, saying: “The hoodies have only been shown not sold and the school shooting hoodies were initially intended to be just for the show and not to sell but that may change now.”

The backlash surrounding the designs comes just as the nonprofit organization Sandy Hook Promise released an intense video about gun violence in schools. 

See what others are saying: (The Cut) (The Washington Post) (Today)

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Nearly 50,000 Workers Strike Against General Motors

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  • GM Employees are striking for the second day after contract negotiations between their union and company did not meet their demands. 
  • GM did give an offer after negotiations, but it was not satisfactory to the nearly 50,000 employees, who are asking for higher wages, better healthcare, a share of profits, job security, and more.
  • Many of the employees say they will commit to the strike until the company meets their requirements, however, others are concerned about living off the estimated $250 of weekly assistance pay while the strike carries on.

Employees Strike

As General Motors and the United Automobile Workers union resume negotiations, GM employees are entering their second day of nationwide strikes.

Fair wages, affordable healthcare, fairer profit shares, job security, and a path to permanent employment for temps are all on the list of demands for the close to 50,000 GM workers striking throughout nine states today. This is the first strike in the U.S. auto industry since 2007, which was also led by GM workers. Striking began Sunday at midnight after a weekend of failed negotiations between GM and UAW. 

Their 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement expired Saturday night, but the UAW declined to extend it. After negotiations ended, the UAW’s Vice President, Terry Dittes released a statement standing by his commitment to worker’s needs. 

“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard-working Americans ahead of their record profits of $35 billion in North America over the last three years,” he said. “We are united in our efforts to get an agreement our members and their families deserve.”

GM extended an offer to its employees that included over $7 billion in investments and 5,400 jobs. The deal also included wage or lump sum increases for every year of the four-year contract, an improved profit-sharing formula, and additional forms of health benefits.

Employees rejected that offer and went forward with their strike after this proposal, forcing GM to resume negotiations with UAW on Monday. 

“Our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business,” GM said in a statement announcing the continued talks. 

Potential Consequences of Strike

The strike does not come without potential consequences, not just for GM, but for the employees as well. Reports say GM could lose up to $90 million a day during the strike, but employees also stand to lose a lot. 

According to a Fox Business report, GM employees will have to wait 15 days to receive their assistance pay, which comes out to $250 a week. This barely covers rent in Detroit, a city that hosts many employees of the company. 

One Detroit-area employee, Patricia Brown, told the outlet that one of her main fears is “that we might be here for a while… and we can’t make it on $250 a week. You know, GM might not want to budge. So I’m just here trying to prove a point, that’s it.”

Still, some see the risk to be worth the reward. Ray Carter-Wilson, a single father also striking in the Detroit area told CNN he is comfortable striking for a long time as long as it all works out. 

“I understand the difficulty of the negotiations and the importance of them,” he said. “This being a lengthy strike, I’m fine with it as long as everything gets ironed out and is fair for everyone.” 

Politicians Support Strike

Strikers also have support from prominent public officials. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) said she was “inspired” by the workers. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also pointed out the wage inequality at the company while adding that he stood with the strike. 

See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (CNN) (The Hill)

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