Who's winning the war on childhood obesity?
"The side with the fattest wallets," Reuters concludes. Duff Wilson and Janet Roberts explain:
After aggressive lobbying, Congress declared pizza a vegetable to protect it from a nutritional overhaul of the school lunch program this year. The White House kept silent last year as Congress killed a plan by four federal agencies to reduce sugar, salt and fat in food marketed to children.
And during the past two years, each of the 24 states and five cities that considered "soda taxes" to discourage consumption of sugary drinks has seen the efforts dropped or defeated.
At every level of government, the food and beverage industries won fight after fight during the last decade. They have never lost a significant political battle in the United States despite mounting scientific evidence of the role of unhealthy food and children's marketing in obesity.
• An L.A. Times writer goes to southeastern Ohio and finds that people don't expect much from the current presidential campaign.
"What optimism exists has little, if any, connection to the presidential campaign which, for all its import, feels distant and somehow beside the point, " writes Mark Z. Barabak.
Barabak finds that Republican Mitt Romney's wealth is a topic of conversation among work-a-day voters. And they also feel that President Obama failed to deliver on the promises he made in 2008.
• Singer and songwriter Carole King ("A Natural Woman" and "Up On the Roof") has written a new memoir that tells of her decision to leave Los Angeles and move to rural Idaho.
• Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said late last week that Congress could slow economic growth in rural America if it fails to pass a farm bill this year.
“If it does not get done, then we are left without programs to support farmers and ranchers, and we create a great deal of uncertainty, which no doubt will impact and effect decisions throughout the supply chain that will compromise the enormous progress we’ve seen recently,” Vilsack said.
• How did agricultural techniques spread among ancient peoples? Did hunters learn how to farm or did farmers migrate, taking their new skills with them?
The evidence is mounting that migration spread an agricultural culture.
• Abuse of prescription drugs kills nearly 1,000 people in Kentucky alone each year. So the legislature passed a bill that will require doctors to do a thorough medical checkup — and check electronic prescription records — before prescribing pain pills. The governor just signed the new law.
• Since the beginning of the Obama administration, state and local governments have shed 611,000 employees. That includes 196,000 educators.
• Child welfare groups are criticizing the Labor Department for withdrawing a set of rules that would have restricted the work children could do on farms.
The rules have been nothing but a headache for the Obama administration. The rules were proposed because death and injury rates of children working in agriculture are high. But the first rules Labor proposed would have severely restricted the work children could do on their own family farms.
The reaction from farm groups and legislators was strong. And the issue became embroiled with presidential politics. (Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said, “If I wanted America to fail, I’d ban kids from farm work.” Labor initially weakened the rules and then last week withdrew them entirely.
Farm groups were ecstatic. Now child advocacy and workplace safety groups are having their say. Over at The Pump Handle, Rena Steinzor recounts some recent accidents that have killed or maimed young workers. "For all practical purposes," she wrote, "withdrawal of the regulations means that children under 16 can be legally employed by big corporations doing tasks that include a variety of life-threatening hazards."