Archive for May 2013
New York, NY (AP) – Continuing his efforts to employ mayoral authority to stem the rising tide of obesity, New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg launched another initiative today aimed at curtailing children’s consumption of fatty, sugary foods, this time as part of the treats traditionally distributed by the birthday celebrant to his or her departing guests.
The goody bag, or loot bag, as it is known in some quarters, traditionally contains several sweets and greasy or salty snacks, and sometimes cake or cookies. Some versions also include a small game or toy, but the focus of the new initiative – and of the kids who receive the bags – remains on the food portion of the contents.
Pending approval by the City Council, the measure would limit such bags to a single “fun size” sweet or salty treat, with the remainder of the contents comprising unprocessed fruits or vegetables and no more than 2 ounces of starchy, unsweetened material such as crackers or pretzels. Non-food items are not subject to the new legislation, and no limits would be placed on the quantity or type.
Earlier versions of the measure had a proposed mandatory inclusion of information on the importance of healthful eating habits, but according mayoral aides, Mr. Bloomberg quickly realized that such a requirement would be cumbersome and would necessitate further bureaucratic involvement to produce or approve such material and provide for its adequate distribution throughout the five boroughs.
The mayor’s previous anti-obesity initiative sought to ban the sale of large-size soft drinks. Though that measure passed the City Council, a subsequent lawsuit and opposition by the soft drink industry resulted in its cancellation. The goody bag industry does not enjoy the same financial and political clout as the soft drink companies, and experts expect the measure to remain on the books if it passes.
“Odds are this one will do well,” said N. Annie State, a political analyst for the journal Welfare Mom’s Day. “The snack food industry is too fragmented to put up much of a fight, and parents everywhere are getting more and more health-conscious.”
Other experts disagreed. “The demographic that actually puts together goody bags is not the demographic that suffers most from childhood obesity,” noted Ray Syst, who writes about diet and class issues for Time Magazine. “The people who buy the junk food in quantity are the ones who don’t have time to prepare a wholesome birthday party to begin with – they’ll just take the kid out to Burger King or some pizza place. This legislation misses the point entirely, and inconveniences people without accomplishing its goal.”
Syst said a better initiative would be to institute a minimum age for fast food items such as most states already have for tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, but acknowledges that would be an uphill fight even in regulation-friendly sates such as New York. Alternatively, he suggested, bag manufacturers could be required to print warnings regarding the dangers of overconsumption of unhealthy foods, much in the way cigarette packages must feature such a prominent label.
Washington, DC (AP) – Fresh from a trip to the Middle East and eager to showcase American decisiveness and will, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters today that the Obama administration is seriously considering leaning in the direction of talking seriously about examining the ways in which the US might convey its possible intent to get involved in the Syrian conflict.
The conflict, a civil war now more than two years old, has claimed in excess of 70,000 lives, according to UN figures, in addition to millions of refugees driven to neighboring countries and millions more displaced within Syria. Conflicts among world powers and among the various rebel groups have stymied efforts to bring the fighting to a close, or even to get the warring sides to the negotiating table. In the meantime, sporadic military assistance continues to flow to both sides, with Russia and Iran primarily supporting the Assad regime and other Arab states and Turkey siding with the rebels.
To date, however, active military assistance to the rebels by outside nations has not materialized, as western countries are loath to get involved in yet another overseas intervention with an unclear outcome and no exit strategy. The Kerry announcement has injected a note of almost-on-the-way-toward-the-neighborhood-of-decisiveness into the mix. It implies that the US, which has provided what it calls non-lethal material support to the rebels in the form of medical supplies and other off-the-battlefield assistance, will now lean more toward an active role in pondering whether any further discussion of extending help might be in the offing.
The announcement may also serve as a rebuttal to President Obama’s Republican critics in Congress, who have long agitated for a more muscular foreign policy and a more robust defense of Israel’s regional interests. Instability in Syria, now spilling over into Lebanon, has left Israel with no clear course of action that would increase its sense of security.
Some Republicans welcomed the announcement, but cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusion on the President’s initiative. “We will form a fact-checking committee to gather information on whether to debate the President’s possible change of approach, if and when such a development seems to be happening,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Other Republicans were less thrilled. “Some of us had hoped to see something more definitive,” said a disappointed Ralph Reed, a conservative lobbyist. “Mr. Kerry could at least have told us that the possibility of actually militarily asserting our interests has moved beyond the declarative stage and into the substantive phase of imagining what scenarios might be feasible if certain unlikely circumstances play out exactly as we would like it.”
At press time, a spokesman for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an umbrella group representing some of the rebel factions, was deliberating whether to consult his colleagues about formulating a response that might acknowledge the announcement.
Bill, Elaine, I’m sorry about the damage to your apartment. I’ll do what I can to fix or replace whatever got damaged. I was trying to keep the place well while you were gone, and did OK for the first couple of weeks, but then circumstances conspired against me.
I’ll try to give all the details in this message so you don’t get completely shocked when you see what went wrong, but I do understand that beholding it all with your own eyes upon your return will nevertheless give you pause. I apologize again for causing you that.
It all started when I went to check on the plants on my way out of using the bathroom. I knew they hadn’t been watered in at least a week, so I found a glass in the kitchen and brought some water over. I didn’t want to overdo it, so of course I didn’t empty the glass completely. But I accidentally whacked the glass against the side of the ceramic planter. Not only did the glass go flying, but I gave myself a nasty cut on the webbing between my thumb and forefinger. I tend to faint at the sight of my own blood, so I knew I had to do something about the bleeding right away. I ran to the bathroom – and slipped on the spilled water.
I sprawled on the living room floor and cut myself all over my hands breaking the fall. The blood got all over the rug, but I couldn’t do anything about it at the time, since I needed to administer first aid. So I got myself to the bathroom as quickly as I could and sat on the toilet. But I didn’t notice I’d left the seat up when I was there before, and fell in.
I couldn’t get myself out so easily because my hands were all cut up, but I had no choice. I tried to grab the hand towels to give myself a grip, but only lifted myself an inch or two when the towel rack came off the wall and hit me in the ribs. I was knocked back down into the toilet. I was finally able to wiggle into a position where my elbows could support my weight as I slowly unstuck myself from the toilet bowl. Now I was soaked as well as bloodied, but I managed to stand up and move toward the sink. I wanted to brace myself on the vanity, because I already felt faint from the pain and bleeding. But I didn’t make it, and collapsed into the bathtub.
The shower curtain broke my fall a little bit, but only because it was torn completely from the curtain rod. On the way down my head hit the soap dish and knocked it off the wall, and my arm hit the faucet lever and turned on the hot water. It took me a minute to realize what was happening, but by then, scalding water was coming out of the spigot all over my midsection. I jumped up, screaming, and leaped out of the tub, hitting my head again on the now-bare curtain rod and knocking it down.
I leaned over as fast as I could to turn off the water, but the curtain rod had come to rest just so, and it poked me hard in the crotch. I doubled over and fell into the tub again, splashing bloody water all over the bathroom. I did manage to turn off the water and slouch against the outside wall of the bathtub, wondering what I should do, but I blacked out again.
When I came to, my bleeding had stopped, but I hurt all over from the cuts, the burns and the bruises. The Schillers from downstairs heard the commotion and came up to check. Poor Mrs. Schiller. She slipped on the little puddle of water as I did and banged into the planter. She hit it with her head, knocking it onto the floor, where it smashed and dumped soil everywhere. Mrs Schiller was knocked unconscious, but Mr. Schiller came in right after her and called an ambulance, but it took him a while to hear my groans as he fussed over his wife. He carefully made his way to the bathroom and saw me amid the wreckage, whereupon he had a heart attack and collapsed, knocking over an end table and causing the lamp to smash on the floor. The exposed filament was now touching the fringed edges of the blood-stained rug, and the rug began to smolder. It took me a minute to realize that I smelled something burning, but I gathered my remaining strength and hobbled out to the living room. I kicked the lamp away from the rug and stamped out the burning part, but didn’t notice that the still-exposed lamp filament had come to rest against the front flap of the sofa.
The sofa burst into flames. I hobbled over to the kitchen and filled a pitcher with water, which I then threw over the flames, repeating the process a couple of times just to make sure. The second time, some of the water landed on Mrs. Schiller, who came to and sat up; the third time, I must have missed the couch and got her full in the face. She lunged at me and began pummeling me, and as you can imagine, I was in no condition to defend myself. But very quickly she looked over and saw her husband. She, too, gasped and clutched her chest, and soon collapsed. The paramedics arrived a few minutes later.
Again, I’m sorry for the trouble, and I’ll do what I can to make things better. Please relay my good wishes to the Schillers when they are released from the hospital, which I understand could be any day now.
Oh, and I think my wallet fell out of my pocket somewhere in the bathroom. Possibly into the toilet. Please check and let me know.
Tel Aviv (AP) – In its latest report on what it calls Israeli intransigence, Peace Now calls attention to the Jewish State’s declared intent of maintaining itself despite opposition from hundreds of millions of opponents. Peace Now called the news “disappointing” and “yet another example of the Netanyahu administration’s willful political and demographic blindness.”
In advance of a visit to the area by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Peace Now report covers numerous areas of Israeli activity as it affects the question of the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It characterizes the Israeli assertion of the country’s right to exist as a way to establish certain facts on the ground that would make accommodation of any good-faith proposals by the secretary unlikely.
“Once again the radical right-wing government of Netanyahu and his ideological allies have demonstrated their complete unwillingness to consider dismantling the entire Zionist enterprise, which we have long maintained is the only just way to resolve the issues surrounding the Occupation of Palestinian territory,” the report’s conclusion reads. “Only by subjecting Jewish Israelis to expulsion, genocide and oppression at the hands of Palestinian hordes can this administration satisfactorily demonstrate its commitment to a negotiated peace.”
Former Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer said his organization focuses on Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Territories, referring to all areas acquired by Israel in war. Since Israel secured its initial existence by defeating several invading as well as local armed groups, that definition applies to all areas currently under Israeli civilian or military rule.
“International Law does not distinguish between territories acquired in a defensive war and those captured in an offensive war,” explained Oppenhemier. “In which case all of the areas that the nascent Israeli armed forces secured in 1948 and 1949 are to be considered illegally occupied. The question of 1967, ” meaning the additional territories captured by Israel from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in a pre-emptive series of operations against amassing enemy forces, “is merely an extension of the same illegality inherent in Israel since the beginning.”
The report calls on Netanyahu to negotiate the complete relinquishing of all Israeli territory in good faith.
As its practice has always been the Netanyahu government ignored the Peace Now report, but others welcomed it. “We have been claiming the very same thing for generations now,” said Haled Mash’al, the now-retired head of Hamas, the Islamic militant movement that runs the Gaza Strip. “We are not wedded to the sword. If the Zionist entity would agree to destroy itself, we would let it do so unmolested.”