Teaching children to eat healthy is too costly for US Congress

Fighting childhood obesity–who could argue against it when 17% of American children, ages 2-19, are obese, and childhood obesity has nearly tripled in the last 30 years? (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) The US congress has argued and ruled against it! This mostly-male institution, made up of many fathers and grandparents, has decided that teaching healthier eating habits to America’s children is simply too expensive—never mind the long-term health care costs of childhood obesity—and besides, government shouldn’t be telling children what they can and cannot eat, GOP leaders defended.

Photograph leading Le Monde's article, "To American Congress tomato sauce on pizza is a vegetable"

Against the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the US Department of Agriculture—as well as Mission: Readiness, a group of retired generals who sees America’s steep trend in childhood obesity as a threat to national security–the House and Senate voted to loosen the standards on healthy foods being served in school cafeterias–by calling pizza a vegetable, a main ingredient being tomato paste! (Why not call soda and candy vegetables too, a main ingredient being sugar—produced from sugar cane, a vegetable!)

Whose recommendations did our government follow instead? Those of Big Food lobbying interests:

“This agreement […] recognizes the significant amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste, ensuring that students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza and pasta,” said Kraig Naasz, president of the American Frozen Food Institute.

SOURCES AND RELEVANT ARTICLES:
Bloomberg News: Congress Pushes Back on Healthier School Lunches
Huffington Post: Pizza is a Vegetable? Congress Defies Logic, Betrays Our Children
Le Monde: Pour les élus américains, la sauce tomate des pizzas est un légume

UPDATE–November 28, 2011

The Washington Post: No, Congress did not declare pizza a vegetable

Congress passed a revised agriculture appropriations bill last week, essentially making it easier to count pizza sauce as a serving of vegetables. The move has drawn widespread outrage from consumer advocates and pundits, who see “pizza is a vegetable.” as outlandish.

There’s just one little misperception: Congress didn’t declare pizza to be a vegetable. And, from a strictly nutritional standpoint, there’s decent evidence that lawmakers didn’t exactly bungle this decision.

Let’s revisit the facts: Despite what one might expect from the headlines, if you scour the agriculture appropriations bill, referenced in numerous stories, you won’t find a single mention of the word “pizza,” or even “vegetable,” for that matter.

This is not a fight over pizza. It is, instead, a fight about tomato paste. Specifically, it’s a fight about how much of the product counts as one serving of vegetables.

[full article...]

Thank you, Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth/NYT, for pointing this out–a good example of how easy it is, for professionals and the amateurs relying on them, to “overplay” any news. But as Revkin, a blog veteran, also noted in an email exchange, “on the Web it’s very tough to get to bedrock, but the power of the web community lies in the reality that assertions and assumptions are all tested 24/7.”

Tumblr Leads Push to Stop Web Piracy Act

Tumblr users who logged in to their accounts today, were given the experience of a censored Internet. All images and text were blacked out, and this announcement appeared at the top of the page:

Filling out the form below with a phone number and zip code, and selecting, “Call My Representative,” would prompt an immediate call from Tumblr founder, David Karp. He encouraged users to stay on the phone to be connected to their US Congress Representative. “Be polite,” he urged, but tell your representative how important it is to keep “an open and uncensored Internet.”

As Karp explained, the US congress held a hearing today on the proposed “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA). The bill has bipartisan and bicameral backing and is a seemingly well-intended piece of legislation: “to protect American intellectual property from counterfeiting and piracy.” However, SOPA would give broad new powers to copyright owners, other private entities and law enforcement officials to demand that Websites block access to copyright infringers, and to hold Web companies liable for pirated content.

You need only to Goolge “stop online piracy act” or “protect ip act” to get the nervous-to-angry pulse of the tech community on the subject. The Tumblr announcement links to a letter to the Judiciary Committee signed by AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo!, and the Zynga Game Network–yes, gamers, this could affect you as well! You can follow the debate at Twitter’s #SOPA. According to a Tweet by EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation),  “@Tumblr is generating 3.6 calls per second to Congress opposing #SOPA!”

SOME RELEVANT LINKS:
US Congress:
 The House Hearing
Huffington Post: SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act, Stirs Controversy
The Washington Post: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) sparks backlash from Facebook, Google
The New York Times:  Stop the Great Firewall of America (opinion)
Reuters: Google Argues Against U.S. Online Piracy Bill
ars technica: Revised ‘Net censorship bill requires search engines to block sites, too
EFF: SOPA: Hollywood Finally Gets A Chance to Break the Internet