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Popcorn as a snack: Healthy hit or dietary horror show?

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Popcorn, with its ample dietary fibre and typically low calorie count, makes it easy to understand why many people think a giant bucket at the movie theatre qualifies as a healthy snack.

But be careful before you start scooping handfuls into your mouth as the opening credits roll; not all popcorn is created equal.

When it’s air-popped and lightly seasoned, popcorn is an efficiently healthy snack. That’s because it is a whole grain, and high-fibre whole grains have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other health problems.

Federal dietary guidelines say half of all grains consumed should be whole grains, and popcorn packs more fibre per serving than whole-wheat bread.

“When prepared well, popcorn actually is a pretty good snack,” said Maya Vadiveloo, an assistant professor in the department of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Rhode Island.

“It’s stable. It’s inexpensive. It’s fairly tasty. For people who might be struggling to eat adequate fruits or vegetables or other whole grains, it’s a low-risk snack to start.

“Popcorn at the movies is very different than popcorn made at home.”

A tub of movie theatre popcorn can contain up to 1 090 calories and 2 650 milligrams of sodium.

“Even a small movie theatre popcorn has significant calories and is very high in salt,” Vadiveloo said. “Sodium is one of the leading risk factors for hypertension and stroke in general, so it’s something we do care about from a perspective of heart disease.”

‘Popcorn lung’

Some theatre chains pop their popcorn in canola oil. Vadiveloo said popcorn made with measured amounts of heart-healthy oils such as canola or olive oil can still be healthy. But, she said, it’s better to have control over how the snack is prepared from the start.

The same logic goes for popcorn coated in sugar, such as caramel corn, she said.

“Air-popped would be a good way to prepare popcorn because it gives you some control over the seasonings that you add afterward – how much salt, or how much oil or butter,” Vadiveloo said.

Microwave popcorn may have posed an entirely different set of health problems in the past, but many of the chemicals involved have been removed in recent years.

One such chemical, diacetyl, has been linked to a disease called popcorn lung, which causes shortness of breath and wheezing. Diacetyl, which gives some microwave popcorn its buttery taste, is found in cheese, butter, yogurt and wine, and it’s not harmful if swallowed; the danger comes when it is inhaled in large amounts.

High satiety

In addition to fibre, popcorn also is a good source of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that have been linked to better blood circulation and digestive health, as well as a potentially lower risk of certain cancers.

Another health benefit of popcorn is its high satiety. Because of popcorn’s high fibre content, its low calorie count and its low energy density, popcorn is considered to be a food that can aid in weight loss.

For example, popcorn has been shown to make people feel fuller than a similar calorie amount of potato chips.

“I could give you 200 calories of a milkshake, and that might be 5 (147.8ml) or 6 (177.4ml) ounces,” Vadiveloo said. “Your body isn’t going to recognise you’ve had 200 calories and feel satisfied.

But if you eat 200 calories of fruits and vegetables, which are high in fibre and water, you’re going to have to eat quite a large portion size to get to 200 calories. The same goes for popcorn.”

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DA national leaders deploy members to monitor troubled Tshwane caucus, council

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The DA’s leadership has moved to stabilise its fractured caucus in the City of Tshwane, effectively placing Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa’s municipality under party administration.

This is according to party insiders. News24 spoke to at least four well-placed sources at both national and local government level in the DA, with some saying there was no other way to fix the mess that’s been created in the capital city, but for national leaders to step in.

Over the weekend, DA leader Mmusi Maimane admitted, when asked by News24 about the state of the City’s leadership, that decisions had been taken to get more “involved” in both the work of the municipality and the party’s caucus.

“I made no apologies about the fact that we are going to take a strong stance there. We have to,” said Maimane.

While he highlighted the challenges the DA government inherited when it took over control of the City from the ANC, which had registered a disappointing showing at the polls following its own internal squabbles, Maimane said there was a need to turn the City around and make sure it delivered services to the people of Tshwane.

“So certainly, it’s a capital city and we are working hard, and I pride myself that, as the DA, we are going to turn that municipality around and do the work that needs to be done,” he said.

The DA-run municipality has been plagued by its own troubles, chiefly the GladAfrica tender scandal and the handling of city manager Moeketsi Mosola’s battle with the council.

James Selfe, who is currently moving into a new role dealing with local governments, flew to Gauteng from Cape Town earlier this month to discuss how the municipality could resolve a dispute with striking workers over the implementation of wage increases.

READ: DA ‘not at all happy’ about payment agreement with Tshwane striking municipal workers – report

When former mayor Solly Msimanga stepped down earlier this year it was expected that his successor Mokgalapa would stabilise the region and resolve the impasse with Mosola.

Insiders have told News24 that the situation has worsened, with Mokgalapa merely rewarding those who were unhappy during Msimanga’s tenure.

“Now the Soshanguve people get to eat, they get the opportunities… that’s who Stevens cares about. We thought he was capable, but he really has been a let down,” said one Tshwane insider.

‘It is really difficult right now’

While Maimane and several others refuse to outright say the party had placed the Tshwane caucus under administration, one source said the national leadership was literally “breathing down their necks” and not allowing any decision to be taken without it being scrutinised and approved.

“They want to know of every step, have a say in every decision. It is really difficult right now, but I believe in the end it will be for the best,” another Tshwane source told News24.

The leader of the ANC caucus, Kgosi Maepa, has complained about the involvement of Selfe and federal chairperson Athol Trollip in Tshwane.

He told journalists that the two had come to the capital city to give instructions. Maepa claimed the DA was not happy with Mokgalapa, whom he’s dubbed “gimmicks” over growing divisions between so-called “white” and “black” caucuses.

The mayor has been accused of advancing the interests of the black caucus, which had previously been aggrieved with Msimanga.

Even City employees seem disgruntled, with a group calling themselves Concerned Employees of Tshwane writing to both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cooperative Governance MEC Lebogang Maile, asking for them to intervene in the City.

Maile said, while the department had enough reason to place DA-run municipalities in Gauteng under administration, that was not its objective, and that they were instead prioritising working together optimally to serve their respective communities.

When Trollip was quizzed by News24 regarding the claims and concerns around the Tshwane caucus, he declined to answer, saying he would never discuss internal party issues with the media.

Maimane, in raising concerns about its Tshwane members adhering to the DA’s principles, said the party was attempting to address the challenges facing its caucus.

“When it comes to the caucus. I have deployed people there to monitor that caucus to make sure we build a united team there that will deliver in Tshwane.”

Samwu strike

Maimane complained about the recent Samwu strike, which shut down the capital city for three days, questioning how the chief of police had failed to stop an “illegal march” from going ahead.

He said this was a failure of leadership and accountability.

“More than anything, I wanted to make sure in the adjudication of certain decisions that take place in that municipality, that we always uphold the DA’s principles in that regard, [ensuring] clean government, making sure that we don’t have contracts that are not of service to the people, making sure of the competence of the leadership.”

Mokgalapa’s office said it was not aware of moves by national leaders to get more involved in monitoring the performance of the municipality. Selfe, who’s recently been given the task of running the party’s governance unit, admitted to “closely monitoring” work being done under Mokgalapa’s watch, but said this was not “unique” to Tshwane.

He said the DA had appointed top leaders to closely monitor work across all the country’s metros.

“This is a programme implemented in order to clearly ascertain the state of affairs in those councils and the communities they serve; the intervention is to better prepare ourselves ahead of the 2021 elections,” said Selfe in an email response to News24.

Selfe also said the DA regularly met with its members who held elected office to ensure they were “on top of all issues” and able to “advise on any appropriate action, if necessary”.

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Jumia Finds Wrongdoing in Nigeria Sales Force as Loss W…

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While the Berlin-based company Jumia Technologies AG is taking measures to cut out instances of wrongdong, the findings backed up warnings made by short-sellers Citron in a report three months ago, which brought an abrupt end to a share-price rally following Jumia’s initial public offering in New York the previous month.

Jumia found cases where “improper orders were placed and subsequently cancelled,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. These included deals made through a team of independent Nigerian sales consultants called J-Force. The transactions in question amounted to 2% of 2018 gross merchandise volume — a term for sales used in online retailing — rising to 4% in the first quarter of 2019.

J-Force allows the company to interact directly with customers but “requires constant improvement,” Jumia co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Sacha Poignonnec said in a conference call.

The retailer — sometimes dubbed Africa’s Amazon — has operations in 14 countries and is seeking to take advantage of rising incomes and better technology on the continent.

‘Unlimited Income’

In advertising for candidates to join J-Force, Jumia promises the opportunity to “earn unlimited income” while having “complete freedom and control over your activities.” Nigeria is ranked 144th on a list of 180 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by Transparency International.

The report of dubious sales practices comes after Citron called Jumia “an obvious fraud,” wiping out early gains from the IPO. The stock shed another 14% to $12.73 as of 12:39 p.m. in New York, dropping below the $14.50 listing price.

Jumia said second-quarter operating losses widened by 60% to 66.7 million euros ($74 million), mainly due to an increase in costs related to the vesting of share options following the IPO. The company’s target for profitability is late 2022, and the cash raised through the listing should take Jumia “close” to that, Poignonnec said.

The “business model has severe vulnerabilities,” Tellimer Markets Inc analysts led by Nirgunan Tiruchelvam said in a note following the results. “The business is intensely cashflow negative and we have concerns about its viability.”

In other news…

South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government – mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

If you believe in supporting the cause and the work of Daily Maverick then take your position on the battleground and sign up to Maverick Insider today.

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Splunk To Buy Cloud-Monitoring Software Maker SignalFx For $1.05 Billion

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Splunk Inc. reached a $1.05 billion deal to buy cloud-monitoring startup SignalFx Inc., a deal that would strengthen the cybersecurity and data-analytics firm’s offerings in the fast-growing cloud-computing sector. The Wall Street Journal reports: Founded in 2004, Splunk — a play on the word “spelunking” — collects and analyzes data to help companies identify patterns, like customers’ beverage preferences, and detect anomalies, say fraud or a cyberattack. Splunk officials told analysts that Splunk has some customer overlap with San Mateo, Calif.-based SignalFx and that the target company’s software represents a “top tier asset to the things that matter” to clients. Closely held SignalFx was valued at nearly $500 million after a $75 million funding round that closed in May, according to a Dow Jones VentureSource estimate.

The cash-and-stock deal is expected to close in the second half of Splunk’s fiscal year, which ends Jan. 31. San Francisco-based Splunk, which went public in 2012 and carries a nearly $1.5 billion deficit, said it would be able to absorb the added operating costs from the deal. Splunk has been increasing its cloud business, which accounted for 25% of revenues in the July quarter and is expected to represent half of operations over the next few years, company officials said.

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