Sugar, Gender and Toilets

If the Greek crisis has taught us anything it is that European Unity, despite its history, its number of member states and the size of its economy remains a precarious notion. Lucky for us the European politician occasionally turns its attention to the real important stuff, thus keeping citizens and denizens updated on what truly matters. Like the amount of sugar we consume or whether or not we visit the right toilet.

Intake.
We move too little and we eat and drink too much, and not only of the good stuff. Hence, we are overweight. But things are never quite that simple and views on what exactly is to blame for the world’s current girth expansion varies. The lack of exercise, rising stress levels, wrong life style choices, wealth inequality, overabundance of ‘badness on offer’, we need a culprit and now that our historical battle with fat has been fought, we have identified our new enemy, sugar.

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Sugar is bad for us. It makes us fat, it ruins our teeth and it is everywhere. Even there where you least expect it.
But spare me more lists and tables …

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The latest WHO guideline recommends the reduction of daily sugar intake to less than 10% of total energy intake (but how?) while a further reduction to 25 grams of sugar per day (aha!) would provide additional health benefits.
Okay. No biggie. If 1 teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams, it is easy enough to check our packaging for sugar content per 100 grams and think. And keep your kitchen scales at hand. (A new app anyone? iScales©!!!!)
What else is needed? Good and clear labeling on all products and an ongoing, intelligent, multi-leveled government information campaign. What we do not need? More taxes.

The argument that taxes keep people from overconsuming any given item and help cover medical costs is wrong. Whether or not a product should be banned is often open for debate. After all, it is not cyanide we are talking about here. Rather, we need to consider usage, manufacturing, advertising, measure and restraint. Taxes do not help to reduce consumption but instead waste money and encourage bureaucracy. Too low the taxes and they are completely ineffective. Too high the taxes and they create a black market.
And what about my freedom? Can only the rich now afford the risk of obesity?

Sometimes I want my cake and eat it.

Output.
Another safety debate lurks, this time about toilets.
My home boasts unisex toilets, used by male and female members of our tribe.

Ugh? No! Normal.

Sit or do it standing up, as long as you leave it clean, that’s the message. And wash your hands as you leave.
But the world has lost its innocence.
The M/F division is outdated and we now need, so it seems if we wish to believe a growing group of campaigners and self-proclaimed progressive politicians, to take into consideration the needs of gender non-conforming individuals and all those identifying themselves along the transgender spectrum.

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There even is a web application (so far in the US only), Refuge, “for those who find themselves in need of a place to pee safely once again”.
It is fashionable to relate to the needs of agender, gender-neutral, genderqueer, bigender, pangender, cisgender individuals.
But what about the father who takes his five-year old daughter to the movies? What when the girl needs to go?

Bathroom users of the world, unite!

If we can’t overcome our loo-squeamishness, lockable single-occupancy, unisex bathrooms seem the answer.

And to those who disagree, a spoonful of sugar to help it go down.

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Tax Collectors and Censors

For years, in a bid to augment annual tax revenue for European governments, the EU has been wanting to tax its digital economy more severely. Additionally, the existence of low-tax countries in a generally heavily taxed continent has made European lawmakers more adamant in their determination to adjust and/or harmonize tax rates.
Whereas previously VAT, Value Added Tax, a Good and Services Tax, was applied based on the seller’s country, new EU fiscal rules regarding the taxation on digital products will determine VAT rates according to the buyer’s country. So where we live will decide which VAT rate we pay.
The new VAT rules will affect amongst others purchases of e-books and music, internet calling services, smart phone applications, cloud storage and movie streaming. Its implementation so far remains unclear.
Some argue that the new VAT legislation will help level the playing field for national online retailers. Even so, it will make things a lot more complex for small businesses which will need to track and collect a wide range of tax rates depending on where their customers are based.

Caveat venditor.

Traditionally and for practical reasons, people generally buy their goods close to where they live. Online shopping has made it possible to buy even closer to home. From home. Goods and prices can be compared, bought and tried and returned. Still, international online shopping can be a hassle. For reasons unclear and unknown, certain items do not ship internationally. Shipment costs and custom clearance can be off-putting. Return policies often remain an obstacle. Digital purchases however are not subjected to such problems. Immediate, safe, un-physical. The click-buy. Finger fast. And, of course, price driven. So, in come the big boys.

Apple, Amazon, Google, often lodged in low tax zones, accused of brutal working conditions and exploitation, have changed the market place beyond recognition. Change, on a massive scale and as an industrialized process is scary. Being made possible thanks to new technology makes it more than scary. It makes the change elusive. Especially for politicians and bureaucrats who operate with mindsets, stuck in the past, and ambitions limited by the short-term.
Naturally, there is something noble, something Robin Hoodish about taking on the big boys. Only this time, Robin Hood looks dangerously like the tax collector.

Tell me where you live and I tell you what you pay. Tell me where you live and I tell you … something else.

Across the Channel, a shift in Britain’s laws regarding pornography means that all online video on demand pornography will be judged the same as pornography sold legally in stores on DVDs. Hence online porn will become subject to the restrictions of the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC). The new laws will ban various acts being depicted in online pornography produced in the United Kingdom. Acts that could be ‘banned’ under the law include: spanking, caning, aggressive whipping, penetration by any object “associated with violence”, physical or verbal abuse (regardless of if consensual), urolangia (known as “water sports”), female ejaculation, strangulation, facesitting and fisting.
The change in law does not make it illegal for people to watch videos produced outside Britain or to perform the acts themselves. Thus it is not expected to affect consumers. It will however cause problems for British pornography producers and websites.

Caveat fornicator?

As with the VAT, nobody really knows how these new pornography laws are going to be enforced.
But neither the tax collector nor the censor can be deterred. He caught on. His teeth solidly in the consumer’s flesh.
Taxation is an obscure field. A mine field. Better left to specialists. For once, one could probably argue the same for pornography.

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