Monday, September 22, 2014

Grim struggle for US long-term jobless; Rockefellers to divest from fossil fuels; 'TV-free days to combat obesity'

1 Grim struggle for US long-term jobless (Andrew S Ross in San Francisco Chronicle) As of August 2014 three million Americans had been unemployed for more than six months. Over two million have been unemployed for more than a year. The only incremental improvement: the percentage of those out of work and looking for the past six months or more has declined, from 46% of the total unemployed in 2010, to 33 percent now.

The plight of the long term unemployed — highest in the 45-59 age group – remains “among the most persistent, negative effects of the Great Recession.” In percentage terms, it’s still the highest since the Great Depression, says the John J Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in a report published today.

The long-lasting trend indicates “that the ranks of the long-term unemployed may remain high for months or years even if the economy continues to improve,” says the report. Close to half of those who have found jobs are being paid less, working part-time, or otherwise experiencing “a step down” from their job 5 years ago.

2 Rockefellers to divest from fossil fuels (BBC) Heirs to the Rockefeller family, which made its vast fortune from oil, are to sell investments in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy, reports say. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50bn in fossil fuel assets.

The announcement was made a day before the UN climate change summit opens on Tuesday. Some 650 individuals and 180 institutions have joined the coalition. It is part of a growing global initiative called Global Divest-Invest, which began on university campuses several years ago. Pledges from pension funds, religious groups and big universities have reportedly doubled since the start of 2014.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund director Stephen Heintz said the move to divest from fossil fuels would be in line with oil tycoon John D Rockefeller's wishes. The philanthropic organisation was founded in 1940 by the sons of John D Rockefeller. As of 31 July 2014, the fund's investment assets were worth $860m.

3 ‘TV-free days to combat obesity’ (Sarah Boseley in The Guardian) Draft health advice on obesity has recommended taking TV-free days or setting two-hour limits on the amount of time spent sitting in front of screens. The advice, aimed at helping the population to keep weight off as well as losing it, says the long hours many of us spend watching TV or staring at screens prevent us being active – and many people snack as they watch.

The guidance from Nice (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) urges people to set limits for the sake of their health. “Any strategy that reduces TV viewing and other leisure screen time may be helpful (such as TV-free days or setting a limit to watch TV for no more than two hours a day),” it says.

The Nice guidance, which now goes out to consultation, is aimed at public health advisers. With 62% of the population overweight or obese, there is great concern for the nation’s health. Excess weight carries increased risks of heart attacks, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, including breast cancer. Obesity cost the NHS an estimated £16bn in 2007 and is forecast to rise to £50bn by 2050.

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