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Archive for February, 2014

Obesity rate plummets for young children / NYTimes

 

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Federal health authorities on Tuesday reported a 43 percent drop in theobesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The drop emerged from a major federal health survey that experts say is the gold standard for evidence on what Americans weigh. The trend came as a welcome surprise to researchers. New evidence has shown that obesitytakes hold young: Children who are overweight or obese at 3 to 5 years old are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults.

A smattering of states have reported modest progress in reducing childhood obesity in recent years, and last year the federal authorities noted a slight decline in the obesity rate among low-income children. But the figures on Tuesday showed a sharp fall in obesity rates among all 2- to 5-year-olds, offering the first clear evidence that America’s youngest children have turned a corner in the obesity epidemic. About 8 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2012, down from 14 percent in 2004.

“This is the first time we’ve seen any indication of any significant decrease in any group,” said Cynthia L. Ogden, a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the lead author of the report, which will be published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, on Wednesday. “It was exciting.”

She cautioned that these very young children make up a tiny fraction of the American population and that the figures for the broader society had remained flat, and had even increased for women over 60. A third of adults and 17 percent of youths are obese, the federal survey found. Still, the lower obesity rates in the very young bode well for the future, researchers said.

There was little consensus on why the decline might be happening, but many theories.

Children now consume fewer calories from sugary beverages than they did in 1999. More women are breast-feeding, which can lead to a healthier range of weight gain for young children. Federal researchers have alsochronicled a drop in overall calories for children in the past decade, down by 7 percent for boys and 4 percent for girls, but health experts said those declines were too small to make much difference.

Barry M. Popkin, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has tracked American food purchases in a large data project, said families with children had been buying lower-calorie foods over the past decade, a pattern he said was unrelated to the economic downturn.

He credited those habits, and changes in the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, for the decline in obesity among young children. The program, which subsidizes food for low-income women, reduced funding for fruit juices, cheese and eggs and increased it for whole fruits and vegetables.

Another possible explanation is that some combination of state, local and federal policies aimed at reducing obesity is starting to make a difference.Michelle Obama, the first lady, has led a push to change young children’s eating and exercise habits and 10,000 child care centers across the country have signed on. The news announcement from the C.D.C. included a remark from Mrs. Obama: “I am thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans.”

New York City under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg also made a major push to combat obesity. The city told restaurants to stop using artificial trans fats in cooking and required chain restaurants to display calorie information on their menus.

Many scientists doubt that anti-obesity programs actually work, but proponents of the programs say a broad set of policies applied systematically over a period of time can affect behavior.

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The obesity rate for preschoolers — 2- to 5-year-olds — has fluctuated over the years, but Dr. Ogden said the pattern became clear with a decade’s worth of data. About one in 12 children in this age group was obese in 2012. Rates for blacks (one in nine) and Hispanics (one in six) were much higher.

Researchers welcomed the drop but cautioned that only time will tell if the progress will be sustained.

“This is great news, but I’m cautious,” said Ruth Loos, a professor ofpreventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital in New York. “The picture will be clearer when we have a few more years of data.”

Still, she added that the 2- to 5-year-olds “might be riding a new wave,” in which changes in habits and environment over many years are finally sinking in. She noted that people who are now 60 years old caught the beginning of what she called the obesity wave that carried the next generation with it.

“Once the obesity epidemic emerged in the 1980s, it took us a while to realize that something bad was happening,” Dr. Loos said. “We’ve been trying to educate parents and families about healthy lifestyles, and maybe it’s finally having an effect.”

Tom Baranowski, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, said there was not enough data to determine whether the decline would spread to older children. Since 2003, the rate for youths over all — ages 2 to 19 — has remained flat, said Dr. Ogden, author of the C.D.C. report.

But 2- to 5-year-olds are perhaps the most significant age group, as it is in those years that obesity — and all the disease risk that comes with it — becomes established, and it is later very difficult to shake, said Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, a professor of medicine and public health at Emory University in Atlanta.

“You have to say maybe some real progress is taking place at the very time it can have the most impact,” Dr. Koplan said. He said he believed the decline was real, as the finding followed several studies that detected patterns of decline among young children, including one by researchers in Massachusetts and the large study by the C.D.C. of low-income children.

“The weight of evidence is becoming more marked,” he said. Still, he cautioned that the age group was only a small slice of American society: “One blossom doesn’t make a spring.”

Gay Marriage Bans

Holder Says State Attorneys General Don’t Have to Defend Gay Marriage Bans

By MATT APUZZO

Washington — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday that state attorneys general who believe that laws in their states banning same-sex marriage are discriminatory are not obligated to defend them.

Mr. Holder was careful not to encourage his state counterparts to disavow their own laws, but his position, which he described in an interview with The New York Times, injects the Obama administration into the debate over gay marriage playing out in court cases in many states.

Six state attorneys general – all Democrats – have refused to defend bans on same-sex marriage, prompting criticism from Republicans who say they have a duty to defend their state laws, not just the ones they agree with.

Mr. Holder said when laws touch on core constitutional issues like equal protection, an attorney general should apply the highest level of scrutiny before reaching a decision on whether to defend it. He said the decision should never be political or based on policy objections.

“Engaging in that process and making that determination is something that’s appropriate for an attorney general to do,” Mr. Holder said.

As an example, Mr. Holder cited the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that forced public school integration in 1954.

“If I were attorney general in Kansas in 1953, I would not have defended a Kansas statute that put in place separate-but-equal facilities,” Mr. Holder said.

It is highly unusual for the United States attorney general to advise his state counterparts on how and when to do refuse to defend state laws. Mr. Holder is scheduled to address the National Association of Attorneys General at a conference on Tuesday.

“It really isn’t his job to give us advice on defending our constitutions any more than it’s our role to give him advice on how to do his job,” said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen of Wisconsin, a Republican who serves as president of that bipartisan group. “We are the ultimate defenders of our state constitutions.”

Mr. Holder’s own refusal to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2011 helped lead to last year’s Supreme Court decision striking down the law as unconstitutional.

Despite last year’s ruling, the Supreme Court has not weighed in on whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. The legal battleground, for now, has shifted to the states, and the collective voice of several attorneys general refusing to defend their laws could help sway those cases.

One of those cases is in Wisconsin, where four same-sex couples sued earlier this month to overturn the state’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Mr. Van Hollen said Mr. Holder’s analysis might make sense in rare cases related to state laws. In states that have passed constitutional amendments, however, attorneys general must defend them, he said.

“If there’s one clear-cut job I have,” he said, “it’s to defend my Constitution.”

In Nevada, Oregon, Virginia and Pennsylvania, state attorneys general have refused to defend bans on same-sex marriage. Attorneys general in California and Illinois once similarly refused to defend bans that have since been overturned.

“The answers to these questions are crystal clear,” said Gary Buseck, legal director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. “Attorneys general can’t close their eyes to something that’s blatantly unconstitutional. They’re not supposed to defend the laws at all costs.

 

Texting Etiquette by Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

 

By Debbie Baldwin

Everybody has a cell phone, and almost everybody texts. Texting is easy, cheap, fun, mildly illicit, and it makes you feel cool—it’s kind of like the 21st-century’s version of smoking. And not unlike smoking, it can be offensive at certain times. The good news is, after a solid decade of text capability, certain rules of order have been established; an E-tiquette, if you will. Now before you decide to forward this to the closest teenager you can find, know that I have seen as many—if not more—offenses committed by an older demographic. Texting, like chewing gum, done anywhere but in the privacy of your own room, runs the risk of offense, so here are some basic parameters.

Rule No. 1: You are not that important. Unless you are waiting for the arrival of a transplant organ or need the launch codes for a nuclear weapon, the text probably can wait. That seems simple, but it can be hard to remember when the movie is reaching its climax and your friends want to know if you’re supposed to be meeting at Bennigan’s or Applebees.

Rule No. 2: There is a difference between silent and vibrate. We can all hear that annoying little buzz-buzz as your phone dances across the table. In a weird way, it’s more irritating than a full-blown ring.

Rule No. 3: Know how your phone works. This sounds simple, but you might be surprised. Do you know how to dim your screen, where your flashlight is, how to silence a call, and how to set and control the various alerts? All useful skills.

Rule No. 4: Almost any phone-related activity is acceptable, if handled appropriately and politely. A simple,Excuse me, I need to take this, works wonders. That being said, there still are areas that are undeniably off-limits:

Forbidden at:  

Funerals

She lived such a full life…But you, you’re going to hell. You may chuckle at the absurdity of this, but there’s a trend developing involving tweets and selfies at funerals.

Job Interviews

Hard to imagine a text more important than the offer.

Driving

Much like the resultant crash, this is a no-brainer.

Take off and landing

See above.

Frowned upon during:

Movies

Just make an effort—dim the screen, silence the type, be quick.

Class

If the teacher doesn’t confiscate the phone, have at it.

Meetings

Seems like this is common practice. It tells the rest of the people in the room that you have important things going on—lots of balls in the air.

Dinner Parties/Family Holiday Get-Togethers

These are presumably the most important people in your life. If you’re texting, invite that person, too.

Free-for-all places:

Malls 

Airports

Grocery stores

Sports venues

West Hollywood

Bars

Salons 

Public transportation 

That about covers it. As for new territory, well, we’ll cross that virtual bridge when we come to it.

 

 
 
 

From Cooking Light.com

I was very inspired by a book club meeting where several women brought healthy, delicious soups. Hopefully, I’ll be making this delicious recipe sometime soon! 

Ingredients

  • Soup:
  • 5 bacon slices, chopped $
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion $
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
  • 2 (4-inch) portobello mushroom caps, chopped
  • 1 (3-pound) whole chicken, skinned $
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 4 1/2 quarts cold water
  • 8 ounces Swiss chard
  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot $
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery $
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Granny Smith apple
  • 1 habanero pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt $
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pesto:
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil $
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt $

Preparation

  1. 1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside.
  2. 2. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Place chicken and thyme in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cover with 4 1/2 quarts cold water; bring to a simmer. Skim fat from surface; discard. Remove stems and center ribs from Swiss chard. Coarsely chop stems and ribs; reserve leaves. Add stems, ribs, and next 5 ingredients (through apple) to pan; bring to a simmer. Pierce habanero with a fork; add to pan. Cook 35 minutes or until chicken is done.
  3. 3. Remove chicken from pan; cool slightly. Remove chicken from bones; chop meat. Discard bones, thyme sprig, and habanero. Strain barley mixture through a sieve over a bowl. Reserve 4 cups of broth for another use. Return remaining 6 cups broth to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes. Return chicken and barley mixture to pan; bring to a simmer. Add mushroom mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper.
  4. 4. To prepare pesto, cook Swiss chard leaves in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain. Place leaves, walnuts, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with soup.
 

 

We need a Choice, not an Echo

The title for this post is the title of a book conservative author and media personality, Phyllis Schlafly, self published in her battle over the Equal Rights Amendment. Back then, she was worried that government regulation would rob women of their choice to stay home as housewives and mothers. It is an equally forceful title today. But one that has taken on new meaning. 

I just got back from Lincoln Days, the Republican Party’s convention here in Missouri. And one of the more memorable moments for me this weekend was when a woman raised her hand and said, “Republicans need to be proud to be Republicans again.” “Like Phyllis Schlafly said, we need a choice, not an echo.” The guest speaker at this luncheon was Sharon Day, who is co-chair of the Republican National Party. She talked at length about what the party is doing to recruit candidates and to open up the Party to women and minorities. Seated just down the dais from her was the Hon. Catherine Hanaway, a former U.S. Attorney and the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House. If elected, she will be Missouri’s first female Governor.

It’s shaping up to be an interesting battle. Her likely opponent is a Democrat who used to be a Republican. He left over the party’s litmus tests and hard lines. Hanaway has opened up her coalition to include suburban Republicans as well as conservatives outstate.  A moderate in temperament and approach, Hanaway has consistently been a team player for the Republicans. And as a prosecutor, she has put child pornographers away and shed a spotlight on Missouri’s newest black eye, human trafficking. 

I drove down to Springfield on I-44, on a stretch of highway named after Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Democrat who died in a tragic plane crash in the midst of a heated Senate race against Republican John Ashcroft. I took note of that sign as I drove on while the audio version of the book, Faith and Politics, by retired Republican Sen. John C. Danforth, played on the cd player in my car. I was listening for inspiration because I wasn’t sure what I would find in Springfield. I tried to commit certain phrases to memory like, “faith is not politics,” and “reconciliation”.

After blogging as a relatively radical moderate Republican woman for the last two and half years, I needed to psych myself up because I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I might get or what reconciliation might look like. I needed to know it would be okay to say I am pro-choice, pro-gay and pro-stem cell in a state that saw some of its top scientists leave over laws that restricted medical research or that is currently debating whether to recognize the marriages of gay couples who were legally wed in other states. 

The wheel is just beginning to turn, even if Missouri Republicans are only in the most initial stages of change, at least in terms of their messaging. Sure, there is still the occasional recalcitrant who gets up and declares the Republican Party, “The Pro-Life Party.” My goodness. But overall, if there was an echo, it is that the national GOP is in the midst of some earnest, and some might say overdue, self-improvement. Yes, there are many women who are pro-life in that party, including Hanaway. But, there seems to be a growing acknowledgement that it may be time to acknowledge there are lots of other kinds of Republicans out there. Continuing to draw battle lines over women’s issues is just slowing the party down from its’ other work.

Voters will have a choice that they haven’t had in the past. Do they take the long view and get on board with the party that shut down the federal government over its’ opposition to Obamacare? Do they help usher in more female candidates and hope that these women can be more willing and flexible negotiators in reconciling the thorniest issues of our day? Will Republicans on the fringes put their differences aside over single issues, especially social issues, so they can focus on job creation?  If there was a message echoing from Springfield this weeked, it is that the Missouri Republicans have realized choosing to be more inclusive is the right choice.