Worldwide cost of obesity hits $2 trillion, report says

A new report by the McKinsey Global Institute released Thursday that the global cost of obesity has risen to $2 trillion annually – nearly as much as smoking or the combined impact of armed violence, war and terrorism.

The report focused on the economics of obesity, putting it among the top three social programs generated by human beings. It puts its impact at 2.8 percent of global gross domestic product.

“Obesity isn’t just a health issue,” one of the report’s authors, Richard Dobbs, said in a podcast. “But it’s a major economic and business challenge.”

The company says 2.1 billion people – about 30 percent of the global population– are overweight or obese and that about 15 percent of health care costs in developed economies are driven by it.

In emerging markets, as countries get richer, the rate of obesity rises to the same level as that found in more developed countries. The report offers the stark prediction that nearly half of the world’s adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030 should present trends continue.

“We are on an unfortunate trajectory,” Dobbs told The Associated Press. “We have to act.”

The report’s authors argue that efforts to deal with obesity have been piecemeal until now, and that a systemic response is needed.

McKinsey says there’s no single or simple solution to the problem, but global disagreement on how to move forward is hurting progress. The analysis is meant to offer a starting point on the elements of a possible strategy.

“We see our work on a potential program to address obesity as the equivalent of the maps used by 16th-century navigators,” McKinsey said in its report. “Some islands were missing and some continents misshapen in these maps, but they were still helpful to the sailors of that era.”


Scotland Yard faces suit by journalists over surveillance

Six British journalists are suing Scotland Yard over documents that show the police had them under surveillance for more than a decade.

Britain’s National Union of Journalists says a public records request showed extensive surveillance of the six – who include three photographers, a video journalist, an investigative journalist and a reporter – by London’s Metropolitan Police stretching back more than a decade.

The lawsuit adds to a drip-drip of public disclosures about British police secretly seizing journalists’ telephone records in leak investigations. Several senior officers have recently acknowledged using anti-terrorism powers to uncover journalists’ sources by combing through the records, drawing concern in Parliament and outrage from media groups.

British police declined to comment on the lawsuit announced Thursday.


Five transferred from Gitmo for resettlement overseas

The Pentagon announced Thursday that it had transferred four Yemenis and a Tunisian to third countries for resettlement after the men were held at the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a decade.

U.S. officials said that three Yemenis were sent to the Republic of Georgia and that the other two men were moved to Slovakia, reducing the number of detainees at the prison to 143.

This is the first time any Yemeni has been transferred from the prison since 2010.

So far this year, 12 detainees have been transferred out of Guantanamo. That number includes five members of the Taliban who were freed in exchange for a U.S. soldier who had been held captive by the Haqqani terrorist network.

The two men sent to Slovakia are Hashim bin Ali bin Amor Sliti, a Tunisian, and Husayn Salim Muhammad al-Mutari Yafai. The other three Yemenis are Salah Mohammed Salih al-Dhabi, Abdel Ghaib Ahmad Hakim and Abdul Khaled al-Baydani.

All five had been cleared for release by an interagency task force set up by the Obama administration.


Settlement reached in early closure of nuke plant

Consumers will pay about $3.3 billion and shareholders will pay about $1.4 billion under a settlement approved Thursday on costs stemming from the premature closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The vote by the California Public Utilities Commission was 5-0.

At issue has been who should take the financial hit for the early demise of the plant located between Los Angeles and San Diego – company shareholders or customers.

The settlement of who should pay the $4.7 billion cost from the closure stems from negotiations among operator Southern California Edison, minority owner San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and consumer advocates. Critics argued that the deal shortchanged ratepayers.

Consumers will pay the estimated $3.3 billion in costs over 10 years, including for power purchased after the plant shut down.

Southern California Edison said in a statement submitted to federal regulators that customers should expect to see a rate reduction in January, reflecting the settlement.

The company expects rates to increase later next year to cover the costs of buying power, but the size of the increase will be buffered by the settlement’s call for shareholders to pay $1.4 billion.

The settlement “is reasonable in light of the whole record, consistent with law and in the public interest,” Commissioner Mike Florio said in a statement.

San Onofre shut down for good last year after a long fight over whether it was safe to restart.

It had been idle since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to hundreds of tubes inside virtually new steam generators.

A federal investigation after the 2012 leak concluded that a botched computer analysis resulted in generator design flaws that were largely to blame for the unprecedented wear in the tubing that carried radioactive water.

– From news service reports