Geneva, Sep 23 (AP/UNB) — Drinking too much alcohol killed more than 3 million people in 2016, mostly men, the World Health Organization said.
The U.N. health agency also warned that current policy responses are not sufficient to reverse trends predicting an increase in consumption over the next 10 years.
In a new report Friday, the agency said that about 237 million men and 46 million women faced alcohol problems, with the highest prevalence in Europe and the Americas. Europe has the highest global per capita alcohol consumption, even though it has already dropped by 10 percent since 2010.
Around a third of alcohol-related deaths were a result of injuries, including car crashes and self-harm, while about one in five were due to either digestive disorders or cardiovascular diseases. Cancers, infectious diseases, mental disorders and other health conditions were also to blame.
"Far too many people, their families and communities suffer the consequences of the harmful use of alcohol through violence, injuries, mental health problems and diseases like cancer and stroke," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO. "It's time to step up action to prevent this serious threat to the development of healthy societies."
The average daily consumption of alcohol by people who consume it is about two glasses of wine, a large bottle of beer or two shots of spirits. Globally, about 2.3 billion people are current drinkers.
The report, the third in a series after ones in 2010 and 2014, relies on information from 2016 — the latest data available. WHO said the trends and projections point to an expected increase in global alcohol per capita consumption over the next decade, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Americas.
"The policy responses which are currently in place in countries are definitely not sufficient to reverse the trends, which we observe in several parts of the world, or to improve significantly this situation," Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, coordinator of WHO's management of substance abuse unit, told reporters.
"When we look at the trends of alcohol consumption in many countries from 2000, you can see ups and downs — which are determined by different factors," said Poznyak, citing countries' levels of social development, economic backdrops, policy measures and cultural trends.
He said the data showed, for example, that alcohol consumption tends to drop in countries facing an economic crisis.
Poznyak said it was "imperative for the governments to put in place measures that can mitigate the harms associated with this increase."
The Distilled Spirits Council, which advocates for the industry in the U.S., said in a statement it supports the WHO's goal to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.
"However, we are concerned that some policy recommendations such as increasing alcohol taxes are misguided and don't effectively address harmful consumption," it said.
Dhaka, Sep 18 (AP/UNB) - The Coca-Cola Company said Monday it is "closely watching" the expanding use of a cannabis element in drinks, another sign cannabis and cannabis-infused products are getting more acceptance in mainstream culture and a harder look from long-established pillars of American business.
The statement came after reports the beverage giant was in talks with a Canadian cannabis company to create a health drink infused with cannabidiol, a naturally occurring non-psychoactive compound derived from the cannabis plant. Shares of the company, Aurora Cannabis Inc., closed up nearly 17 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the report.
Spokespeople for the companies declined to comment on the report but acknowledged their interest in that segment of the cannabis market.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, does not produce the high commonly associated with marijuana. It is believed by many to have anti-inflammation and pain-relieving properties, and numerous CBD-infused products have emerged recently.
Aurora spokeswoman Heather MacGregor said her company "has expressed specific interest in the infused-beverage space and we intend to enter that market."
A Coke spokesman said the beverage giant has made no such decision.
"Along with many others in the beverage industry, we are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world. The space is evolving quickly," Coke spokesman Kent Landers said.
Coke's interest is another indication of the growing acceptance of cannabis by established companies and of the importance of Canada to the development of those businesses. Marijuana becomes legal across Canada on Oct. 17. Cannabis companies from the U.S. — where marijuana remains illegal at the federal level — have flocked to Canada to raise funds and establish businesses there.
American companies interested in making a play in the cannabis space can try things out in Canada without risking doing something illegal at home.
Constellation Brands, a giant spirits company that counts Corona beer among its labels, bought a multibillion-dollar minority stake in Canopy Growth, a Canadian medical marijuana producer.
Coca Cola's statement shows the company has learned from its past missteps picking up on new drink trends, said Ali Dibadj, a senior analyst at AllianceBernstein with an expertise in U.S. beverage and snack food companies.
"The company has been caught flat-footed in the past in not keeping up with trends in beverages. They missed the energy drink phenomenon, they missed — and then had to buy into — the functional waters like Vitamin Water and coffee," Dibadj said. "I think what they're saying is what they should be saying on this very new and emerging beverage."
But testing the waters of cannabis-themed drinks could backfire, he said. Many Americans aren't intimately familiar with the cannabis plant and might not understand that CBD has no psychoactive properties.
Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis plants, and both contain CBD, which can be extracted as an oil that can be added to everything from dog food to hand lotion to drinks.
"I think you have to be very, very careful with this as a large brand. There are different viewpoints on a product category, and you don't want to offend too much," Dibadj said. "You don't want to be too far ahead on any curve."
Harrisonville, Sep 13 (AP/UNB) — A 10-year-old Missouri boy is recovering after he was attacked by insects and tumbled from a tree, landing on a meat skewer that penetrated his skull from his face to the back of his head.
But miraculously, that's where Xavier Cunningham's bad luck ended. The skewer had completely missed Xavier's eye, brain, spinal cord and major blood vessels, The Kansas City Star reports .
Xavier's harrowing experience began Saturday afternoon when yellow jackets attacked him in a tree house at his home in Harrisonville, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Kansas City. He fell to the ground and started to scream. His mother, Gabrielle Miller, ran to help him. His skull was pierced from front-to-back with half a foot of skewer still sticking out of his face.
Miller tried to reassure her son, who told her "I'm dying, Mom" as they rushed to the hospital. He eventually was transferred to the University of Kansas Hospital, where endovascular neurosurgery director Koji Ebersole evaluated the wound.
"You couldn't draw it up any better," Ebersole said. "It was one in a million for it to pass 5 or 6 inches through the front of the face to the back and not have hit these things."
There was no active bleeding, allowing the hospital time to get personnel in place for a removal surgery on Sunday morning that was complicated by the fact that the skewer wasn't round. Because it was square, with sharp edges, it would have to come out perfectly straight. Twisting it could cause additional severe injury.
"Miraculous" would be an appropriate word to describe what happened, Ebersole said.
Doctors think Xavier could recover completely.
"I have not seen anything passed to that depth in a situation that was survivable, let alone one where we think the recovery will be near complete if not complete," he said.
Vladivostok, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has treated Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russian pancakes in a show of warm personal ties between the two leaders.
The two leaders ate pancakes with caviar and had shots of vodka at an exhibition at the sidelines of an economic forum in the far eastern port of Vladivostok.
Beijing and Moscow have developed a "strategic partnership" reflecting their shared opposition to the "unipolar" world, the term they use to describe perceived U.S. global domination.
The rapprochement has been driven by a strong personal relationship between Putin and Xi, seen as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The two have met nearly 30 times, and Putin said that the Chinese president is the only world leader whom he once invited to celebrate his birthday.
Tens of thousands of employees at more than 18,000 U.S. hotels will soon carry panic buttons to help protect them from harassment and assault in an era of heightened awareness around the #MeToo movement.
More than a dozen big hotel chains — including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Wyndham — said Thursday that they will provide personal safety devices by 2020 to all employees who deal one-on-one with guests. The companies will also train staff to identify and report harassment and publish anti-sexual harassment policies in multiple languages.
The devices will vary by hotel. In a new, Wi-Fi enabled hotel, for example, companies may give out devices that automatically send the employee's location to security officers. In an older or smaller hotel, they might distribute devices that emit a loud shriek.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association, which is backing the effort, says around three-fourths of its 25,000 member hotels are participating right now. It is working with harassment and human trafficking organizations to develop training and testing devices to help hotels figure out what works best.
This isn't the first time hotels are giving panic buttons to staff. New York has required them since 2012, after a hotel maid there accused French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her in his suite. Chicago and Seattle began requiring them more recently.
But increasing public discussion about harassment and the #MeToo movement has given the effort a new sense of urgency. Red Roof Inn, Best Western, AccorHotels, Four Seasons and Caesar's are other participants in the rare display of unity from a fiercely competitive industry.
"The cultural conversations have changed, and we have gotten smarter," said Erika Alexander, Marriott's chief lodging officer for the Americas. Marriott plans to make the devices standard at all of its nearly 5,000 hotels in North America by 2020. Eventually it hopes to expand the devices globally.
Rani Accettola, a housekeeper at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Seattle's Pioneer Square, has a safety fob clipped to the front of her uniform at all times. If she presses a button, hotel managers and security are immediately notified of her location. Accettola said the system gives her an added feeling of security, especially when she works late.
"At any moment, help is there if you should need it," she said.
It's unclear how often the devices will be used, but harassment of hotel staff is an ongoing issue. In a 2016 survey of 500 housekeepers in Chicago, 49 percent said guests had flashed them, exposed themselves or opened the door naked.
The rollout of the devices will be messy. Hotel companies only manage some of their properties; others are managed by franchisees. Some companies may require franchisees to add the devices; others may not. Properties vary widely, from sprawling 2,500-room resorts to 65-room, cookie-cutter hotels by the highway.
Some hotels have already begun the process. Hyatt mandated electronic safety devices last fall and has already distributed them to 4,500 employees at 120 hotels in the Americas, Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said. Hyatt has also strongly recommended the devices for franchisees, and expects to expand the program globally, Hoplamazian said.
He said the cost of the devices is easily absorbed by the company. Shrieking alarms — the kind most widely used at Hyatt right now — cost around $25 each. A React mobile device, like the one Accettola wears, retails for $70, but big hotel chains will likely be able to get bulk discounts.
Hoplamazian said there haven't been many reported usages. In one instance, a guest was acting strangely so a housekeeper summoned help. It turned out there was no threat, but Hoplamazian is glad the system worked.
"While the frequency may not by high, the importance of it is really, really high," he said.
Wyndham CEO Geoff Ballotti said his company expects to distribute safety devices by the end of next year to 5,000 employees in the 450 U.S. hotels it owns and manages. Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said "tens of thousands" of staff at 4,500 hotels will get the devices by 2020.
Nassetta said the rollout will take time because training staff members how to respond to the devices is as important as the devices themselves.
"We don't want to create the appearance of safety without the reality behind it," he said.